On 23rd and 24th of May 2018, DFGE was an exhibitor sponsor at the Sustainability Leaders Congress in Berlin. It is the first time this event has taken place: featuring no less than 26 sessions with almost 40 speakers, we will now give you an overview and share our conclusions from the event.
As an introduction: there were many interesting debates showing the current limits of CSR programs, as well as sharing best practices to go towards embedded sustainability, and circular economy. Read below the hottest trends from the Sustainability Leaders!
The limits of CSR and the need for embedding
The Sustainability Leaders debated on the definition of sustainability, explaining there is not one definition that fits anymore. A participant of the conference, Mrs Lorraine Francourt, brilliantly summed up by tweeting: “Definition stays the same, company focus does change”. DFGE could not agree more: all the organizations present shared that there is a need for embedding sustainability into the heart of the company – into the business strategy. However, participants reveal that this shift is hard to make, hence the advance in “baby steps”. There is a need for Sustainability Leaders to guide business into this transition.
Some companies, such as Volkswagen, showed how they align business and strategy. Volkswagen has launched its program TOGETHER – Strategy 2025: its overarching vision is to become a world-leading provider of sustainable mobility.
To summarize, the need for embedding was expressed, especially concerning plastics and packaging.
Plastics crisis wreak havoc in the packaging industry
You won’t be surprised if we talk about the plastics crisis. No later than this Monday, the EU proposed a total ban on plastic cutlery and straws.
Companies said that it was still hard to have take-back programs not being part of a waste specialized industry. Others also explained that some countries lack a proper waste system, and that customers were not educated on such topics. Education and infrastructure could also be part of the solution.
In any case, this is a quite complex topic on which DFGE would like to write further. What was mentioned was the need for alliances, to find common solutions. BASF, in their session “Decoupling growth from resource consumption”, called for more partnerships and presented its solutions for circular economy.
Alliances and employee engagement: key to success
The Sustainability Leaders cannot do it alone! They need the support of society, NGOs, government, etc… to succeed. The employees are the key to success here. METRO shared their program Sustainable Leadership Program. Basically, the program accompanies employees who want to implement a new sustainability program. They are trained and supported throughout a year for the implementation of their program.
Lesson: Don’t be shy and ask your employees to give their ideas on sustainability: you will find many ideas! This can be easily achieved through current digitalization.
Digitalization: a tool to boost sustainability
Digitalization can help us achieve quicker and more efficient results. It can help solve sustainability challenges. With software, you can easily scale, monitor and enhance some solutions.
The company SAP presented its strategy, and how their business supports the completion of the SDGs. For example, they act on SDG 2 “Zero Hunger”: SAP supports food manufacturers and farmers with their tools, to ensure a careful management across the supply chain. They also act on “Zero Poverty” with tools for the digital economy. To give an example, Adarsh Credit Co-Operative Society Ltd. is able to provide banking services to remote and unbanked areas with the SAP Mobile Platform.
Lesson: The SDGs are a powerful tool to support sustainability management.
SDGs: useful for mapping and prioritizing
Large corporations reveal that they used the SDGs as a mapping tool to prioritize their actions at global and local level. Some use them to tune their strategy, such as Carlsberg.
The key message is that, corporations should pick the SDGs they can really act on.
Science-Based Targets: They did it!
CSO: a multitask job in constant evolution
The Chief Sustainability Officer is a profession that has evolved over the past years. Mrs. Wijdoogen and Van Galen presented the 7 roles of the CSO:
- Engage and grow the network, (2) Lead for strategy, (3) Support implementation, (4) Challenge to inspire and connect, (5) Empower others for success, (6) Innovate for continuous renewal and (7) Learn from reporting.
The book “MVO doe je zo” showcasing these 7 roles, will be available in English soon, stay tuned.
Also, a funny thought which was shared by one of the CSOs: they believe that after a few years, their role would disappear, when sustainability is embedded. However, this is far from being the case, and the Sustainability Leaders are still needed to react on the latest trends, help set priorities and the support the shift in business, according to the participants.
Profit, planet, people: People, too often forgotten?
Finally, there was an important focus on people. Professor Chris Lazslo presented his concept of connectedness, believing that this is key to sustainability leaders, that we should all develop a personal sense of connectedness. Why?
“A sense of connectedness to self, to others, and to the world is important not only because we want people to feel happy and fulfilled. It’s important not only because happy and fulfilled people tend to be more creative, collaborative and productive. It’s important because those who experience a deep sense of connectedness are more likely to care for others and future generations.”
Finally, Mat Roberts, CEO of the Shetland Amenity Trust , declared that “It’s about people, stupid”. What else to add? We had quite a laugh when Mr. Roberts asked us “look around you. Are you sitting next to a KPI or a matrix? No, you are sitting next to people”. So, instead of trying to save the planet, Mr. Roberts proposes that we try to save the people… How about both?
We hope that you liked that this recap, and that it will give you some food for thoughts. As for us, we are excited to see what next year has in store! In the meantime, feel free to stay in touch with us on these various topics.