It is clear to say that 2021 is a make-or-break time for sustainable business. Companies need to shift towards a collectively sustainable mindset throughout their operations and value chain, embedding sustainable practices into every job function. Focusing on the supply chain is key, as this is where many opportunities for sustainability lie.
On 23rd-24th November I had the opportunity to attend ‘Transform Europe 2021’, a virtual event hosted by Reuters Events. Over the 2-day summit, I had the chance to listen to industry experts about how they are integrating sustainability in their business and supply chains.
When listening to the wide range of talks, I picked up on some recurring key themes which are vital in achieving sustainability in business:
Perhaps one of the most talked about measures for improving overall sustainability is for companies to collaborate, whether that would involve forming an alliance, forming a collaborative set of objectives or collaborating with suppliers. Having multiple players working together is more productive than just one company trying to tackle big climate aims alone. One particular quote that in my opinion, speaks volumes about this matter, from Sak Nayagam, Senior Director at 3Degrees, said “the climate problem is bigger than one single company”, meaning competition should be set aside and sharing the challenge is the key to achieving sustainability. Alliances may be a suitable way to achieve these goals, with Ulrike Decoene from AXA mentioning that they are working on a ‘Net Zero Insurance Alliance’ by 2023, where she highlighted the importance of working together. As well as companies collaborating, collaborative policy harmonization from governments is the backbone to achieving environmental goals.
Another vital factor to achieve sustainability is to educate people about climate change, whether that may include training modules for staff members or meetings about the current issues, it is important that people know what things they are dealing with, so they are well equipped to manage them. In the ‘Profit and Planet’ keynote, speaker Juvencio Maetzel, Deputy CEO, Management Board Member and Chief Financial Officer at Ingka Holding said that “the more knowledge you have, the more appetite you have” (for climate issues).
Generating creative and innovative ideas to tackle climate change is key, as it not only gives more options for companies, but these methods can also be an incentive for consumers to change their behavior. For example, PepsiCo encouraging consumers to use SodaStream machines instead of purchasing plastic bottles is an innovative way to cut down on plastic waste. It was highlighted by Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy initiative from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation that these initiatives need to be attractive for consumers to change.
Focusing on the circular economy
Within this system, materials and products are kept at their highest possible value as they move and are retained through value retention processes. Sander Defruyt also mentioned that “within the current predominant linear economy paradigm, excess waste is the logical outcome and businesses need to change to the circular economy paradigm in order to stop to contribute to the giant waste problem and to preserve natural resources from being overexploited”.
The final point that I picked up on is that clarity is vital to be successful in sustainability. Being clear across a business, and also with suppliers and consumers is key, and this allows collaboration to happen seamlessly. Businesses have to set out clear targets and outline what they mean for the supply chain, so everyone is aware of the tasks ahead. When asked “how do you get suppliers to take climate change seriously?”, John Cant, Sustainable Solutions Lead at Diageo said “clarity and working with partners”. Having a clear belief in sustainability and communicating this with stakeholders is crucial.
The wide range of speakers and panels at the event allowed for an insightful view of what large companies are doing to achieve sustainability. There’s no doubt that we are a long way off achieving net zero and other climate goals, but it is impressive that the big names are so passionate about the issue, and they will lead by example for smaller companies to follow. A key message produced by Reuters was ‘there’s no business on a dead planet’ and it is clear to say that companies have now recognized the severity of the current situation and are trying to find solutions to transform their business, as well as transforming Europe.
The All Things Supply Chain Blog is a Media Partner for the Transform Europe 2021 event.