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SB Vanguard:
What Would You Do in Your First 90 Days as Amazon's New Sustainability Exec?

This is the first in a series of posts in which we will poll our global community of business leaders and practitioners — what we call the “SB Vanguard” — on a variety of issues pertinent to the evolving sustainable business landscape.When we first heard that Kara Hurst, former CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, had become Amazon’s first sustainability executive, we wondered — what would the Sustainable Brands community think about this?So we asked them: What would you do in your first 90 days in her position?Here are some of the responses ...

This is the first in a series of posts in which we will poll our global community of business leaders and practitioners — what we call the “SB Vanguard” — on a variety of issues pertinent to the evolving sustainable business landscape.

When we first heard that Kara Hurst, former CEO of the Sustainability Consortium, had become Amazon’s first sustainability executive, we wondered — what would the Sustainable Brands community think about this?

So we asked them: What would you do in your first 90 days in her position?

Here are some of the responses ...

"A few thoughts for Kara:- Create a strategy to explain the sustainable and unsustainable aspects of e-commerce; lots of uncertainty and conflicting research on e-commerce sustainability and Amazon needs to shape this debate

  • Ensure she has access and authority to challenge the status quo and strong leadership support (i.e. the size of boxes/amount of packaging for small items)
  • Catalog Amazon’s highest impacts to create a strategy of focus areas — logistics, transportation
  • Assess the accessibility of paper/corrugate recycling in their highest volume regions — and understand insights/best practice for messaging on packaging to recycle
  • Begin to prepare a position on the pressing question we all face around sustainable consumption — how much more stuff do we really need and is a “one-click” mentality fostering a sustainable future for consumers or our planet?"

— Jonathan Atwood
VP of Sustainable Living and Corporate Communications at Unilever
@UnileverUSA


"The first 90 days is a great time for a ‘listening tour.’ Would be a good opportunity for Kara to hear both what people inside the company are looking for in sustainability and what the external community is looking for Amazon to do. At the end of the listening tour, maybe the last 30 days, it would be a good time for some initial prioritization of ideas. Better to accomplish one or two key goals in the first year then take on everything."— Coleman Bigelow
Global Franchise Director — Johnson's & Aveeno Baby, Premium Segment at Johnson & Johnson
@thefifthp


"Congratulations to Kara. As someone who interviewed with the company in the late 90’s when Amazon wasn’t Amazon' and sustainability wasn’t on any corporate radar (or very few), I’d guess she’ll find the job of her dreams working for one of the largest companies who have remained silent about their emissions impact. I’d find a way to show value in communicating progress and share the importance of transparency. I’d immerse myself in the business and understand opportunities — big data is their game and their recent acquisition of companies like Twitch (with a reported 55 million viewers/gamers) is sure to present new challenges. She’ll see where they win and tackle the most material issues first — and use those as a catalyst across the business to grow buy-in. I’d want to know I had support top down — but I think she’s already done that or she wouldn’t have taken the job.— Marci Verbrugge-Rhind
Corporate Communications — CR & Sustainability at Sprint
@marciverb


"For years, Amazon has said virtually nothing about its perspective environmental and social issues, making it a conspicuously quiet member of the world's biggest companies. So to start, I'd want to know what the organization already knows. Does it have good data on its own carbon (and water and waste) footprint from its facilities and data centers? How about the impacts of all that shipping? If there isn't good information, I'd put in place some processes to gather all that data quickly. In parallel, I'd start to formulate a corporate position on climate change and use of renewable energy, starting with data centers (since the company seems to be lagging its IT peers), then moving quickly to shipping-related impacts and to embedded product emissions, since Amazon's real impacts will be upstream."— Andrew Winston
Strategy advisor and author, The Big Pivot
@AndrewWinston

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