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On the Path to Sustainability: Business Opportunities, Culture, Accountability

image credit: Image by the organization "We don't have time"
Carmen L Bonilla's picture
Facilitator, Coach, Consultant Propelled Training + Consulting

I am an experienced facilitator, coach, and consultant, offering services in: LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT: Track record as an organizational facilitator delivering topics such as: diversity, equity...

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  • Sep 30, 2022
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Climate Week NYC 2022 was held September 19th to 25th. The organization “We Don't Have Time” held a full-day event and online streaming on September 20th, which generated thought-provoking and action-oriented discussion on many climate-related topics. Conversations were moderated by Sweta Chakraborty and Nicholas Nuttall.

I would like to highlight my take-aways from the session “How To Meet Your Sustainability Targets: Actions All Organizations Can Take Today” and the panel “Sustainable Changemakers.”

“Business must lead the transition, it has the capital, (it will benefit from) the upside, there's a lot of (business) opportunity in this space. If you're coming to sustainability from a compliance perspective, you're doing it all wrong… this is about staying relevant and being in business," said Angela Hultberg, Global Sustainability Director at consulting firm Kearney.

Angela Hultberg speaking to Sweta Chakraborty. Source: We don't have time

She continued "there's a gap between leaders and laggards,” pointing out that leading organizations regarding sustainability are already discussing how to transition into circular business models that focus on reusing, refurbishing, recycling as well as new ways of working, while laggards are not there yet. Hultberg also mentioned that there’s an “execution gap” at the many businesses that have target goals and ongoing initiatives, but “there's a huge gap between where they are today and where they are going.” She encouraged companies to take the “steps you need to take to be a truly sustainable business, not just a project. (If you think of it as) just a project, it's not scalable."

She went on to advocate that “when everyone is measured on sustainability, that's when you become a sustainable company… We need to train people so that they know the environmental-social impact of what they do… We need to step away from sustainability being its own thing."

Kristen Siemen, Chief Sustainability Officer at General Motors, participated in the panel “Sustainable Changemakers” who said that the company recently introduced the Chevy Equinox electric vehicle starting at $30,000. She claimed that General Motors will have capacity to produce 1 million electric vehicles by 2025. "We changed the industry about 100 years ago and we will change it again." Siemen reiterated that General Motors “plans to become carbon neutral in its global products and operations by 2040” and stated that "I think sustainability now is part of our culture.”

Kristen Siemen speaking to Sweta Chakraborty.  Source: We don't have time

Also on that panel, Matt Helgeson, Head of Sustainability at Siemens, highlighted that “digitalization is decarbonization. The Internet of Things (IoT) is a way to decarbonize” and encouraged applying a digitalization mindset to show how that will lead to decarbonization. About Siemens’ track record of sustainability, he said that Siemens was one of the first industrials to make a commitment and that Siemens is proud of embedding sustainability at all levels and all functions, reminding that executing on ambitious targets takes cross-functional collaboration.

On a later conversation, Mats Pellbäck Scharp, Head of Sustainability at Ericsson, reminded us of the importance of holding companies accountable, when he said that Ericsson has signed more than 200 pledges and no one has circled back with the company to verify whether they met the goal.

In summary:

 

  • Business leader, pursue the opportunities in the transition to a green economy. Jump in, innovate and disrupt. For example, how can digitalization aid you on your path to decarbonization?
  • Time to reflect: Where is your company in the journey to becoming sustainable? When it comes to incorporating sustainability into your organization, think holistically and take the steps to become a truly sustainable business, where everyone is involved.
  • As investors, employees, and community stakeholders, let's hold companies accountable for their progress towards sustainability

What catches your attention? Comment below.

About the author: Carmen L Bonilla delivers leadership development training, including topics of sustainability and diversity, equity, and inclusion, through her training and consulting company, Propelled Training + Consulting. Carmen draws on her 20 years of professional experience to enrich the training classes that she delivers and brings an ability to quickly identify business challenges and recommend solutions. Carmen is certified as an Organization Development Professional, Prosci Change Management Practitioner, and Coach by the Hendricks Institute.

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