“Topics are on the spot”
“Excellent insightful as always”
“I just want to thank the Salterbaxter MSLGROUP for putting on a GREAT Sustainable Business Forum”
It’s easy to talk sustainability, but to embrace it fully across the whole organisation and adopt a sustainable business model – now that’s another story.
We live in a time of change, where leading brands and businesses are realising the vital role they can play in tackling the major challenges facing humanity. A growing number of these businesses are moving beyond the tactical responses to these challenges to form a more strategic view of how their businesses need to adapt. What’s developed from this realisation for change is the rise of a number of potential transformative approaches to business sustainability – Shared Value, Environmental Profit and Loss, Circular Economy, Net Positive, Benefit Corporation, etc.
Last Thursday, 9 October we gathered sustainability leaders, from across the globe, in Amsterdam to participate in the 4th Salterbaxter Sustainable Business Forum, with the aim of discussing the emergence of these new sustainability business models and approaches, which are arguably redefining business in the 21st century.
Speakers from Maersk, H&M, McKinsey & Company and World Economic Forum all embraced the circular economy as the guiding star to technology innovation and financial savings – Dr. Johnson Yeh stated, “The measurable impact of the circular economy could create an estimated one trillion dollars of material saving.”
The LEGO Group and H&M had taken sustainability much further than what the definition of their sustainability models had set out.
The optimism far outweighed the pessimism and with much food for thought there was a feeling of ‘a race to the top’ amongst the brands who were clearly interested in taking their position amongst the leaders driving the new sustainability thinking.
Introduction: Getting under the surface
After a secretive introduction with a video illustrating the heartbeat of new sustainability leadership, Salterbaxter’s CEO and Co-Founder, Nigel Salter, opened the forum by explaining the trends and issues shaping the sustainability agenda and what he hoped the forum would achieve.
The discussion kicked off with Dr. Johnson Yeh, Head of Circular Economy at the World Economic Forum, who began by highlighting the global trends driving the transition towards a circular economy, its potential financial impact, an approach to implementation and how it’s now being described as ‘the next industrial revolution’.
McKinsey, LEGO and H&M business cases
Tobias Fischer from H&M, told the story of H&M’s sustainability progress dating back to its inception in 1995. The examples shared captured the fundamentals of the circular economy and it was clear that H&M is doing much much more than they tell their stakeholders. The unique modesty is clearly something many Swedish brands are graced with.
Insights from Tim Brooks and The LEGO Group were to say the least – impressive: investments in a €400 billion wind farm, ownership of suppliers and almost 100% direct control over their supply chain, once again proved that Danes are far ahead in sustainability leadership.
McKinsey’s Helga Vandournout, followed by explaining how accountants developed extensive support to help businesses in the transition to more sustainable business models with circular economy approaches as the prime example.
Benefit Corporations (B Corps)
Co-Founder of B Lab Europe, Marcello Palazzi, took the stage to share the story of how the B Corp methodology is providing a return back to the concept of a social contract between society and corporations. As Marcello says, “Being a B Corp is not about profit, it’s about identity.”
The rise of Sustainable business models
– pressure from consumers, employees and the natural environment
Millennials are quickly becoming the most influential consumer group, doing much to push businesses in ‘the right direction’ and are making decisions based on how sustainable organisations claim to be. Scott Beaudin, Global Practice Director, Corporate and Brand Citizenship, MSLGROUP, shared the results from MSL’s recent study of Millennials and their perceptions of the impact corporations have on the social, environmental and economic challenges facing our world today.
UN on Why it all Matters
So, why did people show up today? That maybe became even more clear with Guido Schmidt-Traub’s (UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network) presentation. Guido argued that if we are to meet the scale of the environmental challenges that face us, these models under review are only the start: the private sector must play a central role in making a reality of sustainable development. He finished his talk by outlining the need to fundamentally change how business works, and the major transformations that must take place. A simple graph that Guido shared towards the end of his presentation clearly hit home for the audience: “As of today, 85 of the world’s richest people have the capital of the 3.5 billion poorest people.”
To wrap up
– Jo Confino, from the Guardian Sustainable Business was a sharp moderator and with humour; he managed to spark some fantastic discussions. The panel discussion featured Marc Pfitzer from FSG, who highlighted the benefits of the trending topic, Shared Value. Mette Olsen from Maersk Line, Tobias Fischer from H&M and McKinsey’s Helga Vandournout, shared their thoughts on the circular economy while Guido Schmidt-Traub joined in to help us all keep our eye on the issues that matter most.
The aim of the forum was to gather business leaders to share experiences and discuss future objectives of sustainable business. What was clear from all who attended was that the rise of these potentially transformative approaches to sustainable business could create positive impact when applied. Until now, there have only been a small number of CEO’s who have taken a lead, but the feeling is that this year we’re going to see business leaders respond with a growing number of innovative partnerships and groundbreaking strategies. It’s clear that 2014 is truly the year sustainable business models gain traction in the corporate world.
Following @SalterbaxterMSL and #SBDirections for more stories, thought-leadership views and of course, upcoming events.