After a rousing morning of plenary presentations, the spirit of authenticity, transparency and “reimagining partnership” continued into the afternoon Tuesday as dozens of brands and NGOs discussed strategies, limitations and creative solutions to a range of large-scale issues.
Tim Greiner of Pure Strategies moderated “Testing the Limits: Accomplishments and Frontiers in Influencing Suppliers,” which marked recent milestones in influencing suppliers to pivot for sustainability, and to outline next-frontier obstacles global supply chain managers are now facing. The discussion explored new incentives, tactics and tools effective supply chain programs have found useful along the way.
LEGO’s Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Tim Brooks, discussed the toy company’s piecemeal strategy for sustainability.
Next up, Intel’s Carolyn Duran detailed the company’s journey to eliminate conflict mineralsfrom its supply chain. These precious minerals are critical for technology, but also finance war and genocide in some developing regions — namely, Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Finally, the Carbon Trust’s Jamie Plotnek called the supply chain the next “Great Frontier” of sustainability. Plotnek outlined the optimum supply chain sustainability process: focus, pilot and test, collaborate, measure and communicate. Sharing knowledge and best practices, using trusted partners to facilitate, and sharing technical info with other suppliers is key. Plotnek said big data is revolutionizing how we gather and interpret supply chain information, and will ultimately help change the world.
A session on the future of packaging materials saw five companies give two-minute introductions to their packaging solution, with the rest of the session left for attendees to examine the materials and interact in smaller groups with the representatives. Among those presenting their packaging innovations was Ron Allen, Chief Sustainability Officer at YFY Jupiter, whose straw-based cardboard is now being used in HP’s packaging. Allen told the group that there was enough straw in the world to replace all of the tree-based paper. Christopher Bradlee from BASF North America showcased Ecovio, a naturally biodegradable and compostable bioplastic. Bradlee said the net positive material, most commonly used in waste bags and agricultural films, is great for zero-waste programs, food-service, etc. Jim Kopp, VP of Sales and Marketing at Truett-Hurst, Inc. brought along several bottles of his company’s PaperBoy wine, which come in Ecologic’s paperboard wine bottles with a recyclable PET liner that’s detachable for proper disposal.
Jonathan Parry, Business Development Manager at Ecovative Design, showcased the company’s Styrofoam-like material made from agricultural waste and mycelium (mushrooms); and Tony Somers, COO of Impact Economics, the global distributor of Greif’s H2O pack — described the impacts of a backpack-type solution used in developing countries where people have to travel great distances for fresh water. 150,000 distributed to date through NGOs to places such as sub-Saharan Africa, Haiti, Philippines post-hurricane, where there isn’t running water. Habitat for Humanity worked with Greif to distribute 100,000 of the packs throughout El Salvador, Haiti, the Philippines, Honduras, Nicaragua, Nepal and Sri Lanka in September. The CDC is set to conduct an impact assessment of the H2O pack in the coming months.
“What if businesses got an invoice for all of nature’s services that they use to generate their product?” asked Libby Bernick, SVP, North America at Trucost, during a packed nearby session on the growing space of Natural Capital Accounting, and the development of the Natural Capital Business Hub. “The invoice would represent 10 percent of global GDP — $7 trillion.”
The panelists then went on to discuss that though Natural Capital accounting typically occurs after a compelling event, such as water scarcity, the shift to adopt Natural Capital Accounting is slowly occurring. For example, the Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) has a portfolio of investors with assets under management of approximately $17 trillion, which is a good indicator of the momentum that SASB — and natural capital accounting — has gained.
“One thing is becoming increasingly apparent.” said Katie Schmitz Eulitt, Director of Stakeholder Engagement at SASB. “Natural Capital Accounting is a form of risk management. Investors want more actionable information, and they want better data.”
Samir Menon, Head of Eco Sustainability Services, Americas at Tata Consultancy Services and moderator of the panel, noted that the availability of case studies provided by companies on the Natural Capital Business Hub helps other peer institutions evaluate the potential of natural capital for their business as usual.
“The purpose of the Natural Capital Business Hub is to collaborate and connect,” said Menon. “It is about finding peers and making connections with like-minded individuals.”
In a session on "Reimagining the Intersection of Gender and Leadership," panelists Kellie McElhaney of UC Berkeley, Paulette Frank of Johnson & Johnson, and Gayle Schueller of 3M spoke about their experiences in corporate careers where often as they continued to climb the ladder, they found fewer and fewer women with them in the room. This is a cause for concern given research, which shows that companies with one or more women on the board perform better in regards to ESG-related areas, including talent management and governance. A 2011 study by Zenger Folkman showed that women outperformed men in 15 out of the 16 leadership traits examined. The conversation in the room — which was well-attended by both men and women — explored ways business professionals can create experiences that allow us to tap into our feminine energy and use it to further business and personal goals. The need for self-healing and a return to the authentic self and more flexible working environments were among the many ideas discussed.
Meanwhile, Future 500’s Bill Shireman, self-described as “specializing in working with groups that often hate each other,” moderated a panel on “Reimagining Partnership” with Dean Scarborough, CEO of Avery Dennison, Tensie Whelan, president of Rainforest Alliance, Aida Greenbury of Asia Pulp and Paper (APP), Amy Moas of Greenpeace, and Glenn Hurowitz of Climate Advisers (read about the panel’s preview workshop earlier this week here).
Scarborough and Whelan described their memorable visit to sustainably managed forests in Guatemala and Brazil that made Scarborough realize that by implementing major sustainability changes Avery Dennison could transform the paper and pulp industry and the lives of their stakeholders. Whelan also described the importance of recognizing that, like many brands, Avery Dennison’s purchasing power is actually much strong than its charitable power. Although Avery Dennison made rapid achievements in increasing its FSC-certified products, it still struggles with finding the market demand.
Greenbury and Moas recounted a pivotal turning point in APP’s history when it announced its Zero Deforestation initiative in February 2013. Greenbury described how, with the help of the Forest Trust, the sworn enemies stopped demonizing each other and discovered that they had common interests and shared values. APP came to realize that addressing one or two concessions was not sufficient and that they needed to address the entire landscape. Moas agreed that they realized what was best for the forest was collaboration and the dramatic changes that APP is making in forestry in Indonesia are a model to other paper and pulp companies. Hurowitz emphasized the need for government involvement and enacting policies that are favorable for companies to act sustainably, notably changing current regulation that results in companies losing land that goes undeveloped and pushing through a carbon tax.
After the mid-afternoon coffee break, Annie Longsworth, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi S North America, led a breakout discussion on Prioritizing Options for Direct-to-consumer Communication of Sustainability Data, especially complex data such as those based on LCA or supply chain impacts. Panelists presented case studies and insights into how to weigh competing ideas for communicating complex environmental and social impacts, and research that is helping to inform decisions in this context.
Roman Smith, Director of AT&T’s Sustainability Operations, Corporate Sustainability & Philanthropy, presented the company’s comprehensive approach to sustainability communication. Foremost was the development of an eco-rating system that helps to guide customer purchases. In a study, AT&T found that labor and human rights issues trumped materials for customers — and the company is integrating this into its rating system.
Walmart’s Rob Kaplan told attendees that the retailer’s average customer makes purchasing decisions in less than 5 seconds. When making their decisions, most customers think about price, quality, and safety — not sustainability, making it difficult to promote sustainability at the point of purchase. One of the key tools the company is implementing is an online platform for supplier recognition, which should help drive sustainable customer decisions.
And BASF’s Cristian Barcan opened his presentation with the stark reality that we are consuming the resources of 1.5 earths, and with population increasing exponentially, we are on track to using 3 earths by 2050. Every sustainability initiative has product components, and we must take an integrated approach to communication. Ultimately, umbrella marketing messages are the most effective: For example, people often purchase books because of catchy titles. Sustainability can be confusing, and finding a way to make it easy to understand and relate to is necessary for success, Barcan said.
Meanwhile, Sally Uren of Forum for the Future moderated a session on “The Path to Net Positive” with Kevin Moss of BT and Eric Dominguez of Caesars Entertainment. Moss described the methodology behind BT’s Net Good Initiative. Working with the Climate Group and the Carbon Trust, BT developed an ambitious goal: to help customers reduce their carbon emissions by at least three times the end-to-end carbon impact of BT’s business by 2020.
Dominquez described how Caesars is activating employee engagement (notably through the WeSpire platform) and investing in technology to reduce the impact of its operations they have made major strides in reducing their carbon emissions and water usage, and diverting 40 percent of their waste, while not negatively impacting customer experience. However, Dominquez was quick to point out that though he was proud of these results, with the overwhelming environmental challenges we face as a society, we still have a lot of work to do. He also posed the questions ‘What would a net zero guest room look like?’ and ‘How might a hotel help consumers change their behavior and adopt more sustainable practices, so that they continue these improved habits when they return home?’
A nearby session on intrapreneurship, moderated by Christine Bader, author of Confessions of a Corporate Idealist: When Girl Meets Oil, examined skills, tactics and practical advice for scaling sustainability efforts inside large companies, and included Josh Henretig of Microsoft, Darren Beck from Sprint, and Jennifer Silberman from Hilton Worldwide. Panelists spoke about a shared belief that their goal is to engage and facilitate movements at their companies and then get out of the way. They shared tangible examples from their work, including what worked and didn't work. The need to institutionalize sustainability-related behaviors, crowdsourcing and incentivizing employees, and reframing messages to appeal to the motivations of others were some of the many tactics discussed.
Another panel explored the impact of vertical partnerships in the development and use of the Higg Index, a suite of sustainability assessment tools, managed by the Sustainability Apparel Coalition (SAC), that target the apparel industry.
"The Higg Index 2.0 is a holistic self-assessment that allows companies to look at their entire value chain," said SAC executive director Jason Kibbey, who moderated.
Kibbey stated that the goal of the SAC, and the purpose of tools like the Higg Index, is to create longer-term system change. Most importantly, at the root of the SAC and the Higg Index is collaboration. Companies can use anonymized benchmarking information as a driver for developing stronger internal KPIs and in turn, improve in weak areas. But why would for-profit companies collaborate in a competitive industry?
"Patagonia knew that the challenges going on in the industry couldn’t be solved by one company, despite the amount of resources being dedicated to it," said Rick Ridgeway, VP of Environmental Initiatives at Patagonia.
The workshop on the rise of cultural catalysts centered on how brands are finding authentic and effective messengers and methods to help share their brand values and sustainability goals. Moderated by Robin Raj of Citizen Group, panelists discussed how their companies are reaching out and connecting in ways that were unimaginable a few years ago. While traditional celebrity relationships are still important to help get conversations started, as NRG Energy has found with its relationship with Matthew McConaughey, brands are finding that social media and the sharing economy offer completely new ways to create ongoing relationships and motivate participation. BASF’s Christopher Bradlee shared how his company uses sports sponsorships to generate action for zero waste campaigns, such as the company’s relationship with the Seattle Mariners and the University of Colorado’s Sustainable Game Days. “We’re using sports sponsorships as a cultural catalyst to make a more sustainable world,” said Bradlee. “It’s a way we can fit into the community, raise awareness and boost participation to make zero waste the norm.”
Jeremiah Owyang, founder & Chief Catalyst for Crowd Companies, explained how social media and the sharing economy are helping a new kind of cultural catalyst emerge, in the form of highly trustworthy peer-to-peer recommendations. He also talked noted that the rise of the sharing economy and social media are influencing large brands to change their traditional business models and look for partners from outside the company’s walls, such as GE’s Open Innovation competitions, where entrepreneurs can offer their solutions to manufacturing challenges.