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A new corporate structure requires companies to look beyond the interests of shareholders and to consider the effect of decisions on employees, the environment and the surrounding community.
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Timberland LLC, a global boot and outdoor apparel manufacturer, goes beyond simply telling the world about its sustainability work. According to Betsy Blaisdell, the company’s senior manager of environmental stewardship, it has creative new ways to involve employees and to partner with suppliers — and competitors. In this interview, Blaisdell talks about the environment “nutrition label” it’s developed for its footwear, and its partnership with 60 plus apparel and footwear brands, retailers, suppliers and NGOs (from Adidas to Patagonia to DuPont to the World Resources Institute) to develop an environmental index called the Higg Index.
Many companies have initiated sustainability and corporate social responsibility programs that represent good first steps toward improving the impact of their organizations on the environment and society. However, unless boards change, many of the initial sustainability efforts launched in corporations are likely to be temporary. For organizations to achieve sustainable effectiveness, they need a corporate board that is designed to lead in a sustainably effective way.
Now available in the MIT SMR archive: video of last spring’s chat about sustainable product lifecycles with Wood Turner of Stonyfield Farm and Peter Graf of SAP, moderated by Jason Jay of the MIT Sloan School of Management.
As vice president for sustainability at Kraft Foods, Chris McGrath has been pivotal at guiding the company’s sustainability efforts. With its global reach and massive market shares, the company is setting new standards on how to source through sustainable agriculture and keep packaging out of landfills.
In his tenure as president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant first helped steer the company to financial stability, and then set the stage for aggressive sustainability goals. The notion of corporate social responsibility and sustainability has been part of the fabric of the Campbell Soup Company since its inception. By 2006, Conant was ready to kick it up a notch. As president and CEO (he retired last fall), Conant led the company in exploring “how we could bring what I call our DNA, our natural inclination to corporate social responsibility, to a new level.”
At Dell, the sustainability team, working with suppliers and recyclers, has developed new compostable packaging materials made from bamboo and mushrooms. As John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, says, “It’s absolutely amazing.” Long a “pain point” for customers, the new lighter and compostable packaging is a big step forward, improving many sustainability metrics.
Marks and Spencer’s business case for sustainability is built around its five year old Plan Plan A, a commitment to tangible steps to make the company more sustainable. T-shirts for associates featured the slogan, “There is no Plan B.” Plan A includes 180 commitments. All to be achieved by 2015. Their ultimate goal is to become the world’s most sustainable major retailer.
Non-profits have the infrastructure and know-how to tackle the global malnutrition crisis, says Paul Murphy, CEO of Valid Nutrition. What they need now are for-profits with vision to be encouraged to help them.
Trends suggest that the public is no longer satisfied with corporations that focus solely on short-term profits. A recent study comparing companies that adopted environmental and social policies with companies that didn’t supports this view.
However, few companies are born with a commitment to sustainability. To develop one, companies need leadership commitment, an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders along the value chain, employee engagement and disciplined mechanisms for execution.
Peggy Ward, director of the Enterprise Sustainability Strategy Team at Kimberly-Clark Corporation, says that having strong support from the company’s Chairman & CEO, his global strategic leadership team, four business units and an external sustainability advisory board have been crucial to building and meeting aggressive sustainability metrics.
Just because you can’t measure an action doesn’t mean it’s not creating strategic value, says Suzanne Fallender, director of CSR Strategy and Communications for Intel. Her job, though, is to measure wherever she can and make the best case possible for incorporating sustainability efforts into every facet of the company.
We are conducting a quick poll to get a sense of how you, our readers, are thinking about sustainability. Your answers will help inform the design of the next sustainability and innovation survey we’re planning in collaboration with knowledge partner The Boston Consulting Group, due out this June.
Trying to create reporting standards that integrate environmental, social and governance performance along with financial information is “fraught with conflict” and an “almost political adjudication process,” says Harvard Business School’s Robert Eccles. That’s why he loves it.
The planet’s focus today should be on resiliency rather than on sustainability, says Dennis Meadows, one of the original authors of the 1972 book Limits to Growth. That book was one of the first scholarly works to recognize that the world was approaching its sustainable limits.
Stonyfield Farm’s Wood Turner says that with the company’s environmental efforts now in their third decade, the company is working “to move beyond a relatively small environmental team to a true company-wide green team.”
Jason Jay, sustainability expert at the MIT Sloan School of Management, speaks with the sustainability chiefs at Stonyfield and SAP to hear how both companies are approaching the problem of understanding product footprints. They emphasize the strong links between measuring product footprints and building a business case.
Multinational companies such as Apple need to give their Chinese suppliers better incentives to comply with local standards in environmental and health safety, say researchers from Stanford in the new issue of MIT SMR.
This year, most survey respondents say sustainability is permanently on their companies’ top management agendas. What’s more, a substantial portion of respondents say their companies are profiting from sustainability activities – and even increasing their commitments to sustainability initiatives. This is the third year that MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group have reported out on the survey conducted of managers and executives from companies based around the world
Multinational corporations are under growing pressure to make sure their contractors and subcontractors in China meet environmental standards. Yet traditional approaches to ensuring environmental, health and safety compliance, such as checklist audits, have proved problematic. This article recommends that organizations work closely with suppliers, providing incentives for identifying, disclosing and addressing problems and establishing collaborative relationships with NGOs and industry groups.
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