Meeting at a Roundtable just prior to GLOBE 2010, leaders of some of the country's largest companies sought to identify the top economic, environmental and social forces of the future that will impact on their corporate success.
Economic forces - can our existing corporate structures absorb changing sustainability analytics? How far can we go in valuing environment and social strategies?
Changing demographics, the re-orientation of global politics, and the increasing power of social dynamics were some of the underlying factors influencing the eight major trends identified by the group that are shaping the landscape of corporate sustainability. These are:
Rapid rise of social media - The use of social media to disseminate information and to connect globally has re-written the rules of communications.
Sustainability reporting - Stakeholders are demanding that companies do a better job in communicating honestly.
Stakeholder relations - Corporations must demonstrate what they stand for and be willing to collaborate with others.
The 'Green' consumer - Consumers increasingly are challenging what is authentic and what is not, which means the branding of truly green products will be more important than ever.
Scarcity - Rising prices for scarce commodities means corporate must accurately assess risks, promote efficiency, and improve sustainability performance.
Complexity - Social, environmental and economic issues have become increasingly intertwined and more difficult to gauge. Corporate decision makers now have too many factors influencing their decisions.
Society as regulator - The general public and civil society organizations are becoming the main regulators of corporate behavior in the absence of government.
NIMBY - 'Not-in-my-back-yard' remains a major challenge and demonstrates more than ever the need for businesses to engage stakeholders and to build social value into their operations.
Social issues, What will be the impact on companies of changing forces of globalization, communications, employee expectations and transparency?
Greg Neichin, Vice President of the Clean Tech Group told EXCEL members that once they have harvested the low hanging fruit from their sustainability strategies, they should turn to clean tech investments to achieve longer term sustainability.
Daniel Hendrix, President and CEO of Interface stressed the importance of integrating long term planning into sustainability.
Some of the lessons learned from Interface's sustainability journey were:
- Innovation comes when sustainability is a core business value;
- Your people must learn how to make the ROI work
- Your products must be good as or better than what is currently available
- Employee engagement, recruitment and retention is crucial to success
- Listen to customers and clients
- Clean energy is a constant challenge
- Partner with your suppliers
- Decision making must center on one question: Is this moving us forward towards our Mission goal?
Environmental progress - What future will we experience? Are we at the crest of the wave for environmentalism, or are we just beginning to see its impacts on our operations?
Chris Henderson, Founder of The Delphi Group, summarizing what leading corporations of the future will look like, said 'The leading sustainable organizations will be more integrative, more externally engaged, and more value oriented in the next decade.'
Senior Executives of the following EXCEL Partnership members attending the Roundtable included: BC Hydro, Capital Power Corporation, Cenovus, CN, DuPont, EnCana, Greymont, Holcim, Nexen, RBC, Suncor, Teknion, Teck, and TransAlta.
EXCEL is an initiative of the GLOBE Foundation and is managed by The Delphi Group . EXCEL is also a member of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development's Regional Network. For more information regarding the EXCEL Partnership and the Spring 2010 Roundtable, please contact Ted Ferguson, Vice President of The Delphi Group and Partnership Coordinator for EXCEL at firstname.lastname@example.org .
A Summary of the Spring Roundtable Proceedings is available here