Last week, Clarkston attended the GreenBiz Forum in Scottsdale, AZ along with other corporations, NGO’s, academia, trade associates, and green start-ups. This event attracted 500+ professionals, experts and thought leaders in sustainable business, creating a collaborative setting to accelerate progress in corporate sustainability.
The topics were fresh and remained high concept, making it was easy for attendees to follow-along and to draw meaningful connections. Working sessions provided deeper-dives into certain topics, catering well to the broad range of attendee interests, challenges, and incentives.
Joel Makower, Chairman and Executive Editor of GreenBiz Group, kicked-off the 3-day event in the context of the 2014 State of Green Business Report, which stated that improvements in sustainable business practices had leveled off in the last year. He identified four main themes for accelerating sustainable growth: Collaboration, High-Hanging Fruit, Supply Chain, and Natural Capital.
Five of the keynote conversations were centered around the benefits of engaging in partnerships on Sustainability programs, mainly between corporations and NGO’s. Through corporate-NGO collaboration corporations can gain knowledge and consumer-trust, while NGO’s can see faster change compared to lobbying for legislation. Asia Pulp & Paper, The Forest Trust, and Greenpeace transformed negative relationships to constructive engagement to unlink AP&P’s Supply Chain from Deforestation.
Makower reasoned that sustainable business progress has not plateaued due to decreased effort or engagement, but rather because the low-hanging fruit has effectively been picked and the results largely realized. Therefore, significant effort will be required to take-on more complex projects, but the associated business benefits will also be much greater.
For many manufacturers, low-hanging fruit was found within operations, through energy savings or reduced emissions at facilities. High-hanging fruit can be found by engaging R&D and supply chain in the conversation, and building sustainable thinking into corporate strategy and risk assessment.
Supply chain analysis is a main focus for Consumer Products companies, especially food and beverage. An example of higher-hanging fruit, but one that begs immediate attention due to heavy consumer pressure for transparency. Often the largest impacts (environmental and social) occur in the supply chain, and supply chain analysis exposes major risks to reputation, business continuity, and long-term growth. Seventy percent of McDonald’s footprint occurs in their supply chain. Driven by consumer demand, McDonald’s has committed to developing a “Sustainable Beef Supply Chain” to reduce their impact.
Non-financials are a growing concern for consumers, investors, and companies as the risks and opportunities associated with these factors become clearer. Assessments to value resources as ‘Natural Capital’ can provide insight for strategic planning and risk assessment, better-position companies for institutional investment and lower corporate insurance rates.
Over 1,000 investment institutions have signed the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) initiative. PRI assesses environmental, social and governance factors in investment analysis for long-term health and stability of a business and/or industry.
With the increasing pressure on Consumer Products companies to evolve into more sustainable businesses, countless challenges arise. Many sustainability executives explicitly expressed a need for strategies to further engage the CFO, as well as tactics and tools to utilize to target the elusive high-hanging fruit.
At Clarkston, we continually draw from our expertise in business strategy, process excellence, organization effectiveness, and technology to build-out methodologies and tools that can be leveraged to overcome challenges like these.