The prospects of Natural Capital Accounting (NCA) are capturing the attention of the sustainability community at large, and with good reason. In part one of our two-part interview with Thomas Odenwald, SAP's Senior Vice President of Sustainability, he explained the three angles from which the company is approaching NCA; here, he offers steps for implementation.Dimitar Vlahov: This all sounds both promising and practical to me. What would you recommend the Sustainable Brands community to focus on in terms of specific next steps?
The prospects of Natural Capital Accounting are capturing the attention of the sustainability community at large, and with good reason. Keen to drill down into the topic with key players in the SB community, we sat down with Thomas Odenwald, SAP's Senior Vice President of Sustainability, to get his perspective on the implications and applications of this crucial movement. Dimitar Vlahov: There is a lot of buzz these days in sustainability circles about Natural Capital Valuation and Accounting. To what extent are you following this conversation and what do you think about emerging case studies?
For over 20 years, PRé has been the metrics solutions partner for first-movers in a variety of industries aiming to create business value from sustainable products. Perhaps best known for their pioneering SimaPRO LCA software, PRé has recently shifted its focus to examine the social impacts of products. We spoke with Renée Morin, president of PRé North America, to find out more about the company’s new direction and what it has learned so far.
“We're screwed,” agreed authors Andrew Winston and Paul Gilding in the opening plenary of last week's Ceres Conference.“But we've got huge opportunities to solve mega-challenges profitably,” Winston added.
Sustainability software and consulting firm PRé has announced a partnership with supply chain software company SupplyShift to tackle the challenges inherent in the twin fields of life cycle assessment (LCA) and supply chain sustainability, and to use the strengths of each field to support the other. These challenges involve (1) dealing with the lack of primary supplier data in LCA inventories, (2) streamlining complex data collection and management issues in supply chain efforts, (3) circumventing inefficient duplicate data requests, and (4) facilitating the use of sustainable sourcing to reduce the environmental impacts LCA identifies.
As companies obtain greater understanding of the social and environmental implications of their operations and products, the need to implement measurement methodologies to understand the impact of these business activities becomes more evident. Social impact measurement aids companies in identifying opportunities and risks associated with a project. It is a valuable ally to highlight the positive aspects of a given process or product. It is an even more useful tool to understand the important negative effects that must be managed and minimized.
Last week, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) officially launched its Retail Energy Management Program by releasing the Retail Energy Management Maturity Matrix (REMMM), a new tool designed to help retailers optimize their energy management programs.
In November 2013 the first World Forum on Natural Capital took place in Scotland, signaling that the concept of natural capital accounting (NCA) as pioneered through emerging tools such as the Environmental Profit & Loss (EP&L) account is starting to pick up pace. Even more recent is the establishment of the Natural Capital Business Hub in February, showcasing a broad range of promising natural capital case studies that have yielded a positive return on investment.
PepsiCo, Unilever, Heineken and more than 50 other members of the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform have developed the world’s first industry-aligned Farmer Self-Assessment (FSA) of sustainable agriculture practices, launched earlier this month at SAI Platform’s General Assembly in Seville, Spain.The FSA is designed for farmers to assess their sustainable agriculture practices in a way that is universally recognized by the food and drink industry, SAI says. The industry-aligned set of assessment criteria for farmers meets the sustainable sourcing needs of many companies. Any farmer can complete the assessment online and it can be used for most crop types, farm sizes and locations around the world.
Integrated reporting is the core of corporate sustainability. It is critical to organizations communicating their value creation over time and acts as a benchmark for future progress. Global brands including Walmart and Coca-Cola spend millions to collect vast amounts of data from their immense supply chains to report on their sustainability initiatives.
As natural capital, biodiversity and ecosystem services are terms that are increasingly bandied about, a few questions are increasingly being whispered by corporate colleagues that are worth answering:
John R. Ehrenfeld, author of Flourishing: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability, contends that the world is more unsustainable now than in 1972 in spite of the sustainability programs of firms worldwide.In his recent post, Ehrenfeld argues that sustainability strategies and programs fail to address the fundamental causes of unsustainability, because most economies and companies still pursue growth beyond the capacity of our planet to support it.
In January 2014 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Corporate Knights unveiled its annual Global 100 Most Sustainable Companies rating, with biotechnology company Biogen Idec placing second. What's behind this strong showing?
Nature is valuable. But figuring out how valuable has been challenging. By some measures, the services that nature provides business and society — clean water, food and metals, natural defense from storms and floods, and much more — are worth many trillions of dollars. But that number is not helpful to companies trying to assess how dependent they are on natural resources, or how to value them as business inputs.
“Given that carbon footprinting is predicated on climate science, why doesn't the Greenhouse Gas Protocol include guidance on setting science-based emissions goals and targets?” That's the question I asked Janet Ranganathan, Vice President for Science and Research at the World Resources Institute (and founding director of the GHG Protocol at its outset), at the 2012 Ceres Conference (she's a Ceres boardmember). Her response has unfolded in words and actions over time, first by introducing me to Pankaj Bhatia, the current director of the GHG Protocol, at lunch in Washington, DC in the fall of 2012, where we discussed this gap and potential ways to fill it.
One of the key messages in the upcoming book The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, More Open World is the “need to set goals in companies based on science, not on what we think we can do, not bottom-up,” says author Andrew Winston.
In December, Ralph Thurm delivered a captivating TEDx Talk introducing the notion of ThriveAbility, and its promise in bridging what he calls the “Sustainability Context Gap.” As former COO of the Global Reporting Initiative, to complement deep experience in the corporate world (at Siemens) and consulting realm (at Deloitte), Thurm has witnessed firsthand the limitations of the corporate sustainability movement to achieve the transformations necessary to solve our social and ecological crises.
At SB's third annual #NewMetrics Conference at the University of Pennsylvania in September, the need for next-generation sustainability goals — which measure progress toward real-world goal-lines such as carbon budgets, water tables, and living wages — emerged as a key theme.
In eight earlier parts of this series, we discussed 18 pitfalls in the sustainable business metrics field. (Find the first 7 articles here and the last one here.)Two recent events — the passing of Nelson Mandela and the COP talks in Warsaw — and the re-occurrence of a familiar critique about GNP accounting give us new insights on the place of metrics in making change, and potential lessons for sustainable business.