What Happens When You Talk About Corporate Sustainability?

Supply Chain, Sustainability, Value Added Services
June 24, 2014

They say it takes a village to get anything meaningful done. We can’t rely solely on public policy and nation states to drive change because laws and policies can only go so far. Accelerating transformation means actively engaging both the public and private sector. That’s why Fortune Magazine launched an annual event seven years ago to explore how corporate sustainability initiatives could bring about change to rein in climate impacts. Now in its eighth year, Brainstorm GREEN has become the premier conference on business, sustainability and green investing.

Brainstorm Green:  A Launchpad for Change

Each year, CEOs, sustainability advocates, policy wonks, environmentalists, investors and thought leaders gather to work out ways to take the corporate sustainability movement to the next level through various avenues: legislation, regulation, science, finance and even marketing.

The goal? To foster wider adoption of practical green processes and technologies that are already within reach, and to go beyond incrementalism (e.g. replacing incandescent bulbs with CFLs, reducing waste, installing solar panels) and inspire revolutionary change. This year’s event took place May 19-21 in Laguna Niguel, California, attracting a Who’s Who of movers and shakers.

Green Initiatives Robert Sanchez

The cross-section of speakers and moderators included former Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Heather Zichal; CNN correspondent Natalie Allen; Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club; Gary Hirschberg of Stonyfield Farm; Christine Todd Whitman, former New Jersey Governor and Chairman of the Clean and Safe Energy Coalition; and our own Robert Sanchez, Chairman & CEO of Ryder System, Inc..

Some of the topics speakers covered included how to grow revenue and profits while reducing environmental impact, taming wasteful consumerism, and leading a movement in Washington to fix energy and environmental policies and align them for more consistency across regions.

Sustainability Can Be a Catalyst for Innovation

Robert Sanchez was asked to speak at a session that dealt with using sustainability to spur innovation and energize employees. He talked about his own experiences and how tapping into hearts and minds is the best way to harness employees’ ideas, to encourage them to innovate and energize them as brand ambassadors. Coupling this effort with a values-driven sustainability strategy is a great way to move the needle. The challenge is doing so without losing business focus.

So how do you engage employees to generate ideas, innovate, and collaborate to drive environmental change? Robert talked about how Ryder’s natural gas program reinvigorated a culture of innovation. The program also illustrated how employee behavioral change can be a big driver of carbon reduction projects in corporations. Sustainability initiatives can help drive innovation by:

  • Shifting a company’s self-perception about innovation
  • Providing a focal point for engaging employees – leading by example
  • Generating a new energy and sense of pride and purpose in employee’s work
  • Demonstrating commitment by investing when other companies are conserving cash
  • Mobilizing skeptics into proposing new services and innovations related to the primary offering
  • Highlighting the connection of sustainability to the company’s strategic and revenue goals
  • Empowering employees to make a difference
  • Fostering collaboration on a variety of projects that show both commercial & societal impact

To reap these benefits, corporations can foster change and drive innovation through sustainability initiatives by:

  • Setting the right tone at the top and maintain a consistent focus to shape culture and behaviors
  • Creating an ongoing dialog and quantifiable metrics to engrain that focus into your culture
  • Making the best use of resources and be efficient in all areas of your operation

To see and hear everything Sanchez said at the conference session, watch this video and learn more about Brainstorm GREEN.

David Bruce is Ryder System, Inc.’s Vice President of Corporate Communications & Public Affairs and is responsible for leading all external and internal corporate communications activities and public affairs functions.  David has been with Ryder for 15 years and works closely with Chairman & CEO Robert Sanchez as well as the entire executive leadership team. 

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