3 New Corporate Sustainability Strategies from this Year’s Mindshare Meeting
The annual 2012 Mindshare Meeting of WRI’s Corporate Consultative Group (CCG) brought together experts and leading representatives from business partners to discuss cutting-edge issues at the forefront of corporate sustainability. The discussion embodied the ideas that can be generated when business works with non-profits to identify emerging issues and develop solutions to the planet’s most pressing challenges.
Business leaders from almost all of the 36 CCG companies attended this year’s meeting. With nearly $3 trillion in combined annual sales, this group’s reach and influence has a significant impact on people and the planet. Joined by WRI’s Board Chair Jim Harmon and WRI directors Robin Chase, Alison Sander, Tiffany Clay, and Clint Vince, the MindShare Meeting generated some big ideas to help inform decisions that are smarter for both business and the environment.
3 Ideas to Boost Corporate Sustainability
We had a stimulating two days with corporate leaders. Three major ideas that emerged from our conversations included:
Leveraging ‘Excess Capacity’ Can Help Drive New Revenue to Business. As the squeeze on the world’s resources increases, there are opportunities for businesses and individuals to optimize their existing assets. If combined with technology and scale, the business proposition can be very attractive. For example, Air BnB, an online and telephone marketplace, took four years to establish a business that owns no buildings, yet advertises 650,000 extra rooms in people’s houses that travelers can stay in overnight. Compare that to the 60 years it took for InterContinental Hotels to establish the same number of rooms around the world. A number of CCG members have been using “excess capacity” in their own operations. Johnson & Johnson, for example, takes advantage of its unused roof space to generate solar power.
Integrating Environmental Data, Metrics, and Analysis Within Supply Chain Decisions Is Increasingly a “Must-Do” Rather than a “Can-Do.” Leveraging analysis of supply chain data around resource use can help a company differentiate from its competitors. This development is also in line with market research evidence for increased sophistication in supply chain planning overall. With the availability of granular, risk-relevant, timely, and transparent data regarding corporate supply chains, savvy businesses are making more informed procurement decisions. For example, companies like Wal-mart are working with WRI experts to leverage new methods for analyzing and then breaking the link between agricultural commodities and deforestation. Others, such as electric utilities, can now work with WRI experts to better understand if their power stations are likely to face outages due to water risks.
In the Future, Multi-Impact Assessments May Fundamentally Alter the Relationship Between Business, Consumers, and Investors. Building off the success of the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the leading standard for emissions accounting, one of the CCG sessions explored whether there are opportunities to apply similar standards to non-GHG resource issues, such as nitrogen and ocean acidification. This approach could drive business improvement, reduce costs, and foster innovation while providing a framework to encourage economies to grow sustainability. Indeed, some of the participants pointed out that a more complete set of indicators could form the basis for integrated reporting or help inform a better understanding of which planetary boundary concerns are most salient to consumer choices.
These are just a few of the forward-thinking ideas emerging from this year’s MindShare Meeting. We hope that individuals will now build on these ideas and work toward more ambitious strategies that will benefit businesses by mitigating risks, identifying new opportunities, and ensuring long-term profitability. The bottom line is that we all need to re-double our efforts to confront today’s resource and sustainability challenges.
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