Our third PE Symposium held on October 26, 2011 in Stuttgart, Germany was another great success. Through your willingness to provide candid feedback we heard that:
Nearly 200 professionals from throughout Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Latin America participated in what has become one of the best events to learn about using life cycle information to improve both your company’s and your products’ sustainability performance. Building on the first Symposium where the focus was on LCA and carbon footprint, this symposium illustrated how far the companies have advanced in integrating life cycle information into their core business practices. Below we share the key take away messages from a day full of insightful, candid and inspiring presentations.
Almost all of the speakers spoke about how sustainability is no longer just the right thing to do, but how it is THE new business imperative. We heard about the role that institutional purchasing, greener buildings, and retailers are playing to create a pull for both sustainable products and for sustainably managed firms. Les Hayman addressed this in his opening presentation which put sustainability in a global context, showed how business is different today as a result of these developments and ultimately how sustainability is and will continue to be a driver of business effectiveness and competitiveness.
Sustainability is not a destination where you know when you get there and you are done. Instead sustainability requires a continuous examination of where you interact with the environment and society to identify how best to reduce one’s risks and capture ever changing opportunities. Presentations by Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Disney and many more demonstrated how companies are continually evolving and innovating solutions along their journey regardless of where they are. Further, the success stories of leaders were often tied back to their beginnings emphasizing the importance of ‘starting’.
We heard throughout the day from companies like Daimler, Tesco, AkzoNobel, to name a few, that to ensure long term alignment and improvement in their sustainability goals, they must have efforts underway in economic, social and environmental fronts. However, they also spoke to the importance of these operating within a governance/management framework (e.g. senior leadership support, strategy, programs (DfE), tools (GaBi, i-reports, PLM, scorecards), and foundation data). The framework ensures continual improvement, commitment, engagement of a broad set of internal actors and alignment of corporate activities all of which are critical to maximize the success of any sustainability effort.
The following figure (although not developed for the summary) illustrates a framework that we have been using that drives continual understanding and improvement in order to achieve long term success.
Throughout the day speakers such as Siemens, Zumtobel, Puma, etc. spoke to the informed actions that they and their companies were taking. Consistently this involved translating an understanding of life cycle impacts into specific actions and actionable tools to support improved decision making (e.g. material selection, supplier management, marketing, etc.).
By providing a means of measurement and a level playing field standards and regulations help companies to move along their sustainability journeys; as well as, to provide direction for future efforts. Presentations by WBCSD and The European Alliance to Save Energy showed the power these can hold, the responsibility – and benefit- sustainability leaders have in driving these forward, and the paths to participation.
Sustainability efforts particularly in the environment and human health protection have traditionally focused on upstream manufacturing processes. However there is growing awareness of the relative scale of consumer use impacts in a variety of sectors. Addressing the impacts of one’s customers will require tools and techniques to engage, educate, and include them in reducing impacts across the value chain. Fortunately, there is a growing body of best practice to draw upon from a variety of leaders – many of whom spoke at the symposium.
From studies by change management experts and confirmed by our experience - we have found that effective change requires a vision, skills, incentives, resources, and action plans. Without all of these we often get confusion, anxiety, gradual change, frustration, and false starts (Figure 2). As demonstrated throughout the day these elements are critical in internal efforts and if anything even more so when striving to achieve change across the value chain and its variety of actors.
Once again we are grateful to each of the presenters and moderators for sharing critical insights into how they have achieved the success they have across their value chains. It was an inspiring and engaging day and we look forward to continuing the conversations throughout the year; as well as, at next year’s symposium.
Adam Opel AG
AFRICA PARTNERSHIP ON CLIMATE CHANGE COALITION
Betreuungsgesellschaft für Umweltfragen Dr. Poppe
British American Tobacco
BVBA Unilin Industries Boekhouding
Carbon Disclosure Project
Celanese Chemicals Europe
DAW Deutsche Amphibolin-Werke von Robert Murjahn Stiftung & Co KG
Deloitte & Touche
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Nachhaltiges Bauen e. V. (DGNB)
Dole Food Company
East Asiatic Company
ecotropic sustainability consulting
Eczacibasi Yapi Gerecleri San. ve Tic
Energie AG Oberösterreich
ENI CORPORATE UNIVERSITY
Ethiopian Environmental Protection Authority
European Alliance to Save Energy
Fraunhofer Institut für Bauphysik
Free University of Berlin
Ghana Airport Company
Giesecke & Devrient
IFBS - Industrieverband für Bausysteme im Metallbau
Institut Bauen und Umwelt
Intertek Expert Services Switzerland
Jaguar Land Rover
Johnson & Johnson
Laboratoire d'hydraulique et de construction hydraulique
Linde Material Handling
Metsa Tissue Poland
Ministerium für Umwelt, Klima und Energiewirtschaft Baden-Württemberg
Noble Carbon Credits
PTT Exploration and Production Public Company
SCA Personal Care
SGL Automotive Carbon Fibers
Solo Cup Europe
Sustainable Innovation Lab
Tata Consultancy Services
Technische Universität Berlin
The East Asiatic Company
THERMOPLASTIQUES COUSIN TESSIE
THERMOPLASTIQUES COUSIN TESSIER
ThyssenKrupp Steel Europe
United Technologies - Pratt & Whitney
Universidad de Cantabria
Università Politecnica delle Marche
Universität Stuttgart Lehrstuhl für Bauphysik
University of Strathclyde
Walt Disney Imagineering
World Business Council for Sustainable Development