Sustainable enterprise and the view from throughout the pond


Reprinted from GreenBuzz, a free weekly publication. Subscribe right here.

Who’s main on sustainability — European or U.S. corporations?

It’s an open query, and the reply relies upon largely on who you ask. Whereas American observers typically credit score the Europeans with being on the forefront of insurance policies and motion, many Europeans look west to America for management.

After all, there’s some fact to each views.

Final week, on the inaugural assembly of the GreenBiz Govt Community Europe, we noticed each views in sharp aid. The strong dialog among the many dozen and a half corporations, assembly in a Paris convention room a stone’s throw from the Louvre Museum, revealed the transatlantic mutuality and interdependence.

The occasion — convened underneath the Chatham Home rule, which means that members and their affiliations might not be named — introduced collectively members from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the U.Okay. (plus myself and two different interloping colleagues from america, GreenBiz VP Sustainability Dylan Siegler and co-founder Pete Might; and Lori Gustavus, GreenBiz’s Paris-based Europe director). Very similar to its almost 15-year-old U.S.-based counterpart, the member-led government community promotes peer-to-peer studying amongst company sustainability leaders.

Our assumption that European corporations could be reticent to ask questions and share options took about half-hour to disprove.

In Europe, we realized, teams reminiscent of this are comparatively scarce. One potential clarification: Corporations are assumed to be extra reticent than within the U.S. to share their learnings or to ask each other for assist. Stateside, the place many company sustainability initiatives are thought of precompetitive, it’s develop into commonplace for corporations to open themselves as much as peer corporations, even rivals, to share what they’re doing, how they’re doing it and what they’re studying alongside the way in which. In Europe, not a lot.

However as we noticed final week, there’s a starvation for such engagement. Our preliminary assumption that the European enterprise neighborhood could be extra reluctant to embrace the chance to ask questions and share options took about half-hour of the primary day to disprove. Beneath the management of Gustavus, the dialog was off and operating.

Pragmatic and philosophical

The matters ran the gamut, as they usually do at these conferences. There have been the mundane points we’ve lengthy seen inside U.S. corporations: educating workers; participating shoppers; the position of advisory boards; upskilling sustainability professionals and others.

And there have been some matters which can be less-frequently mentioned, some bordering on the philosophical. Listed below are three (with due to Xana Maunze, our diligent note-taker):

  • Nature-based options for sequestering and mitigating greenhouse fuel emissions are more and more frequent as of late. However Europeans appeared to be asking deeper questions. Amongst them: Are corporations able to set science-based targets for nature? Ought to biodiversity be a enterprise precedence? How can corporations align “nature optimistic” commitments with international targets? (Facet be aware: We’ll be internet hosting a half-day Nature Discussion board as a part of subsequent month’s VERGE 22 convention and expo.)
  • Coverage engagement and sustainability want to higher align. Companies want to interact policymakers and never simply associations to push for adjustments in coverage that can have an effect on sustainability. For sustainability executives, which means utilizing one’s circle of affect internally to generate change. The company secretary or the chance, communications, authorized and different groups might be allies, relying on the group.
  • The conflict between sustainability and financial progress. How can corporations develop and nonetheless declare they’re supporting nature? The place do progress and regeneration align and battle? How can we even measure progress in regeneration, significantly on the agency degree? There’s a want for a playbook on how that may work.

On that final merchandise, my good friend, sustainable enterprise pioneer (and erstwhile GreenBiz contributor) John Elkington, extremely regarded on either side of the pond, identified two sides of the “progress” dialog.

“Those that’ve grown up within the sustainability business have grown up in a world the place we’re locked right into a world of progress as a result of we will 8 [billion], 10 [billion], 14 billion folks,” he mentioned. “Now you’re seeing that consensus breaking down, whether or not it is Japan, or whether or not it is China, going from 1.4 billion folks right down to 700 million by the top of the century. So, degrowth is coming.” The implications for corporations throughout a wide range of sectors might be profound, he famous.

As I mentioned, from the pragmatic to the philosophical.

Ultimately, the query of which continent is additional alongside in addressing sustainable enterprise points is essentially moot. The Europeans and the People — as with so many different social, cultural, financial and geopolitical points — are on parallel journeys, dealing with strikingly comparable struggles and having fun with comparable successes. And usually shifting ahead at a velocity that concurrently appears quicker than some would anticipate however far, far slower than what’s really wanted.

In that regard, we’re all household.

Thanks for studying. You’ll find my previous articles right here. Additionally, I invite you to comply with me on Twitter and LinkedIn, subscribe to my Monday morning publication, GreenBuzz, from which this was reprinted, and hearken to GreenBiz 350, my weekly podcast, co-hosted with Heather Clancy.


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