A Busy Week

I have struggled to keep fresh posts on my blog for the last couple of weeks.  Not for lack of things I want to write about, but because I have been attending some really inspiring events and been involved in a couple of related articles that took up my writing energy.

Last week I attended the UN Global Compact Leaders Summit in New York “Architects of a Better World”. It was an inspiring event. Ban Ki-Moon provided the opening remarks on the second day of the summit and was presented with the results of the UNGC Accenture CEO Study on Sustainability 2013. The study identifies that CEOs want business to do even more but concludes we are on a plateau due to three barriers. While I recognise the barriers,  I see that the consensus that the report uncovers is exactly the opportunity we need for companies to act together to overcome the them. I wrote about this in a post that was published on the Guardian Sustainable Business UNGC Leaders Summit Hub.

In anticipation of today’s release of the UN IPCC Climate report I wrote this article for Business Green talking about how increasingly variable weather conditions are impacting on business now. Here is an excerpt;

 Weather variability impacted customer services significantly enough that it made it into our Chief Executive’s introduction to the 2013 Annual Report and Accounts. And this is no ‘one off’.  Unusually poor winter weather was quoted in the CEOs introduction in the 2011 Annual Report and Accounts and extreme weather was referenced to [in the annual Report]  by one of our key lines of business in 2010.

 Now that’s integrated reporting !

And to square the circle, Guardian Sustainable Business launched a Circular Economy Hub earlier this week and I contributed to the opening article with some thoughts about the opportunity CE presents for business and for sustainability.    I see a comment up there now saying it is the same as Reduce, Reuse and Recycle – I will see if I can articulate in a response what I think Circular Economy adds to the RRR concept.

Do take a look at these articles and  let me know what you think.

  1. Comments 3

  2. Pankaj Arora 2:54 pm on October 1, 2013

    Hi Kevin You've captured the sustainability essence in your article "Business case for Sustainability" in the Guardian which brings out these 3 points: 1. Internalizing the externalities: If environmental costs are not allocated to individual products and instead generalized as overheads, as is currently done by most companies, then the ‘clean’ products will appear to have higher costs and ‘dirty’ products will appear cheaper, when actually that is not the case. I believe each industry and each company within it has to tailor make its own accounting tools to account for grey areas as some costs get hidden in the general overheads and get divided between all the processes and products, directly affecting pricing. 2. Fighting the battle between commercialization and values: Adding to the list of mission driven companies is New Zealand based Phoenix Organics which started small in 1986 on core sustainability principles (at the time they didn't know it) was acquired by Charlie's Group (NZ's leading beverage company) Another example is the famed Body Shop, now part of L'Oreal. The challenge with such activist/ethically founded/mission driven companies is one of scale. The question here is: Do sustainable companies have scaling problems? Do they grow to a certain point and stop? To continue to be profitable, do they need the shelter and experience of bigger players? Patagonia, Seventh Generation, Timberland are more companies that come to mind - and are yet to be "overtaken". But surely, when such companies get acquired, they do rub some of those values. 3. Who creates the demand - Consumer or the business? It's an eternal question but the debate must be laid to rest that consumer is naive in its choices and that businesses have the influence and marketing clout to create the demand. In the end, it eventually does fall upon the larger companies and market leaders to take the lead - because they not only affect their humongous supply chains but also it becomes their moral license to operate.

  3. KevinMoss 1:06 pm on October 2, 2013

    Pankaj, thanks for taking the time to leave such a comprehensive response. You have inspired be to create a list of companies that have acquired brands for their sustainability value. I cam across a couple of other examples today and the two you have quoted in addition are enough to get me moving on it.

  4. Pankaj Arora 8:21 am on October 3, 2013

    Would be interesting to see a dedicated list of such companies...there may be some lessons to be learnt from them. Also put my thoughts on the CE100 and 3R concept on the guardian article... http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/27549463 I think it's important for companies and more importantly, general "consumers" to understand the difference between the two.

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