I interviewed Dave Newman and Jon Blumenauer who discussed corporate sustainability.
Dave Newman has 26 years experience at Nike in Finance and Operational roles. He represented Nike's global logistics organization in the sustainability implementation. He has always had the passion for the intersection of sustainability in the supply chain.
Jon Blumenauer spent about a decade in international operations in apparel manufacturing. He also worked for Nike and spent a lot of time in Asia and Europe. He worked with a supplier and another company in international operations. For the last 5 years he has been doing sustainability strategy consulting.
What is corporate sustainability?
Jon: It is a big question that can be interpreted in many ways. Jon and Dave interpret sustainability as the intersection of economic, social and environmental issues where all three areas are being considered. In their experience, a lot of organizations may focus on one or two of those issues. For example, the social component began as what people considered sustainability with philanthropic activities, looking at worker's rights etc. Environment has become a big topic lately but to round out the full picture of sustainability you need to consider both social, environmental as well as the economic aspects because if it doesn't work in terms of the corporate sector and being profitable. Otherwise you won't be able to stay in business. All three elements are important.
Trends in corporate sustainability
Dave: Jon and I are very passionate about the supply chain. Consumer facing brands have the pressure of making sure they understand the impacts of their supply chain. Now we are starting to see Walmart's suppliers to the brands or the companies that have B2B relationships suddenly are now required to report and understand the impacts of their activities to their customers.
Jon: A trend for awhile was reporting to the consumer. Now it is the reporting to the customer. The ultimate consumer may be a brand or retailer. But as more research is being done we are finding out that most of the environmental impacts are upstream in the manufacturing, raw material extraction process and in the transportation. These are areas where if you really want to make an environmental impact you really need to address these upstream areas in the supply chain.
How can companies get started?
Dave: It is often a challenge because it is understanding those relationships. Typically we think of conversations with key suppliers and vendors about the need to begin gathering information. It is really a conversation with your key suppliers and stakeholders about whatever goals or pressures those brands are facing and engaging a dialogue about getting the data and helping companies to understand these impacts which Jon talked about enable to determine what are the actions going forward.
Typically, it starts with that conversation and beginning to understand those opportunities exist. Then you can get down to practical measures, whether its energy efficiency, opportunities within the manufacturing arena, materials or close looped recycling programs, or it could be the way product is sourced and delivered to marketplace. It is a really big area, but typically it starts with conversation and dialogue and looking at where opportunity exists.
Jon: Just to follow up on that a simple question is “what is important to your customers?”. This is going to identify key drivers. It may be social components. We may want to make sure the work place is safe and healthy for the people making your products. It may be environmental issues. We want to make sure that this is not polluting waterways. Or the manufacturing of this product is not using toxic chemicals.
It is really finding out what the key issues are for your customers. There are many stakeholders involved, but the customers are the key driver so you may want to start there.
Then it is just to measure and manage. One opportunity is to start out by benchmarking where your impacts are, then prioritizing based on where your most significant impacts are and the most significant return on your investment. You want to look at things considering the economic lens and you want to start off with the investments that are going to be quick wins. Some of these things may even save you money by increasing efficiency. Then you can look at the more higher risk or more larger dollar investment opportunities as you move on.
About Dave and Jon
Brightworks Sustainability Advisors
Hutani Sustainability Strategies