Last week, Sustainable Brands participated in and helped support an important meeting in Berlin, hosted by BASF, entitled "Steering a Portfolio Toward Sustainability." A gathering of almost 150 chemistry industry stakeholders — including customers and colleagues such as DOW, AkzoNobel, DSM, Eastman Chemical, Solvay and Sabic — participated in the day-and-a-half-long discussion.
Representatives from Akzo, DSM, Solvay and DOW took the stage following BASF's lead to openly share their own frameworks for measuring and managing their own portfolios. While differences in approach were shared, the group roundly agreed that more similarities than differences exist. More importantly, they reported seeing a wide range of advantages to harmonizing their approaches, including reestablishing (or reinforcing) confidence in the chemical industry, accelerating innovation, creating a simpler and more powerful tool for conversations between sales and procurement and beyond.
The second day of the event saw presentations from customers including Henkel, Nestlé, BMW Group and Siemens, who each shared their own approaches to tracking sustainability within their portfolios — each had unique methodologies but agreed in the value of the exercise. Sustainable Brands, Forum for the Future and The Natural Step each led afternoon breakout workshops reflecting customers, the financial community and NGO/political needs, respectively, after which they reported back to the group on key takeaways.
A high degree of energy was sustained through the end of the meeting, wherein the community at large agreed to the strategic imperative and immediate value of the exercise and delivered a handful of key guidelines for those who would take the initiative forward. These included:
- Focus on harmonizing a framework for the chemical industry first.
- Keep it simple but flexible.
- Make sure it reflects positive value creation across financial, environmental and social axes, as well as negative footprints or costs along these same lines.
- Help create a common language.
How Retailers and Brands can close the intention-action gap
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The community as a whole agreed such an initiative, if successful, would help all involved drive faster and more efficiently to the sustainable economy that we need. The event concluded with a call to action to establish a new working group within the WBCSD to pursue the initiative further.