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Brands, NGOs Talk Keys, Barriers to Sustainability in HP's Living Progress Exchange

Over the course of three days at SB’14, sustainability leaders from HP, Edelman, Globescan, Kiva, Timberland, Conservation International, PWC and UPS met in a series of small, roundtable discussions on Human, Economic and Environmental Progress, as part of HP’s “Living Progress Exchange."

Over the course of three days at SB’14, sustainability leaders from HP, Edelman, Globescan, Kiva, Timberland, Conservation International, PWC and UPS met in a series of small, roundtable discussions on Human, Economic and Environmental Progress, as part of HP’s “Living Progress Exchange."

Created and hosted by HP in the spirit of their “Living Progress” plan to simultaneously drive the advancement of human, economic and environmental goals, the goal was to workshop ideas, pool collective resources, and knowledge and cultivate previously counterintuitive collaborations that can scale to create broader systems change.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the conversations:

  • Cross-sector collaborations are key — Huge issues such as human rights, workers’ education, biodiversity loss, and climate change affect makers of shoes and makers of microprocessors. The Living Progress Exchange and the larger SB’14 event provided valuable opportunities to build synergistic cross-sector relationships to make systemic change necessary to tackle this century’s biggest challenges.
  • The way we achieve economic growth in the future must be different from the way we achieved growth in the past — Participants were asked to imagine how we might disconnect economic growth from resource consumption. They also talked about the need for a new way of measuring economic progress, one that better recognizes value creation over short-term gains.
  • Metrics and reporting are necessary, but we need to turn reporting into action — Because the term 'sustainability' encompasses so many different things for different people, data-driven metrics and reporting play an important role in legitimizing brands’ sustainability claims. However, challenges include how to develop better cross-sector reporting standards and how to ensure company resources are used to enact change, not just measure it.
  • We need radical communication to enact radical change — Radical communication is needed in terms of better conveying brands’ sustainability stories, but radical communication is also needed in order for corporations and NGOs to sit down at the same table, speak honestly about their vulnerabilities, and discover opportunities for partnerships. Conservation International is able to leverage HP’s ability to process data to get more comprehensive and useful data on an ecosystem’s health. HP is able to showcase how Big Data can save the planet.
  • Governmental policy is missing from the table — At the table with leaders from large brands, social entrepreneurs, marketing consultancies, and environmental non-profits, the role of governmental policymakers was notable absent. Participants noted widespread mistrust in government’s ability to make necessary changes, without pressure and leadership from brands and NGOs.
  • Sustainability is a journey — Participants readily acknowledged that the Living Progress Exchange at SB’14 is just one part of a continuing conversation and ongoing efforts.

HP and Globescan will host an online Living Progress Exchange on September 9th.

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