A sit-down with four sustainability experts, and hearing some innovative practices

Allie Williams
Executive Director, CRA
Corporate Responsibility Association

I recently attended the GreenBiz Forum in Scottsdale, AZ, and had occasion to sit down with a few sustainability and supply chain professionals. The idea was to gain an understanding of how their companies face challenges and opportunities related to a variety of sustainability issues, such as building a better sales team, preserving forests, fostering relationships with unique communities, improving affiliations with vendors, and creating successful projects.

First up was Paige Goff, vice president of sustainability and business communication at Domtar Corporation, the largest integrated producer of uncoated free sheet paper in North America. She told me about how the sales team is making a difference by making sustainability simple. “We equip the sales team with snippets related to sustainability – a 101 level approach so they can share them with our clients and potential customers,” Goff said. “Sales have increased and we are driving proven results. We have 10,000 employees and I’m proud to say that sustainability is ingrained in the culture created by our CEO, John Williams.”

One of the exciting concepts from their Earth Choice Platform, which has become how they use environmentally sound products for business, is responsible usage. “We have partnered with PrintEco Software, which employs smart algorithms that optimize the content you are printing so it can fit on a smaller number of pages,” said Goff. “A simple e-ticket for a flight may have up to nine pages of information – weather, attractions and other facts that I may not need. This process saves time, money and paper. We are in fact a paper company, but this is one way we are helping our customers and reducing waste.”

Next was Asia Pulp and Paper, one of the world’s largest of its kind. The company is responsible for delivering quality products to meet the growing global demand for tissue, packaging and paper. When it comes to working with communities for the common good, Aida Greenbury, managing director of APP, discussed three big challenges they face. First, the economic side: “We need to make sure our full operations are sustainable – the machines we use, the raw materials the process we go through, and that the mills we work are in line with our mission and vision.”

Second, environmental: “This is a massive assessment to identify. Our facilities must meet and exceed the regional and national environmental regulation requirements where we operate and all relevant international standards. We provide information, education, training and monitoring of our employees, contractors and suppliers, to ensure a clear understanding of relevant policy and guidelines to achieve our environmental goals.”

And third, the social side: “Working primarily in Indonesia and China, we need to be protecting and respecting the communities rights, and it’s not as simple as having a written policy. We need to know each area well and have community and social issues mapping to identify whether a particular community belongs in the operating areas. It is a very complicated issue for us. In Indonesia, for example, the government gives us a license to operate in certain areas. If a community is already there, we work to engage and empower members of the community. But if issues arise, such as burning the forest to clear the land for rubber production or coffee manufacturing, we need to count on stronger law enforcement to help manage these situations.”

APP aspires to the highest level of corporate responsibility. They recognize their social obligations and role in the welfare of the people and the countries in which they operate. They are committed to ensuring the operations and those of their supply chains have positive impacts on the social and economic welfare of the surrounding communities.

Francesca DeBiase, vice president, Strategic Sourcing and Worldwide Supply Chain Management at McDonalds Corporation, is looking at its supply chain and has come up with three ideas:

1. Testing vendors. McDonalds wants to go to sustainable beef by 2016; obviously that’s a big project and a tough goal to meet. “We will need to be able to trace beef from beginning to end,” said DeBiase. Idea: Test countries with an initial project. That way, they can see if they get the information they need to trace the supply chain, and thus get the sustainable beef it wants. “We want to know what the countries’ plans will be, what projects we they work together to map out how to get this done, and test it in the real world,” she said

2. Vendors apply for “Best of ….” Awards. McDonalds is looking to reduce waste. “Packaging – after beef, is our second priority,” she explained. “There’s the consumer side of waste, so it’s the packaging that the consumers see. Do we need to have the same amount of packaging for someone who goes through the drive thru as someone who eats in the restaurant? If we reduce the amount of packaging we use, we will have a positive sustainability impact and save money. The difficult part of this is that 70 percent of our consumers are going to the drive thru – so what happens to that material? Waste cycles are very local. We need to educate consumers on how to reduce the amount of waste.” .

One way is to get the vendors involved in coming up with ideas: To do that, McDonalds initiated an award called, “Best of Sustainable Supply.” DeBiase continued: “Working with the supply chain is one of our biggest strengths. We believe that we have a competitive advantage by having long term relationships with trusted suppliers – working on a handshake, being transparent – so we have a collaborative effort for our solutions.

“We have an environmental scorecard for all the major food categories, so the suppliers complete the scorecard and send information on water, waste, air and energy. It’s a continuous improvement process which allows them to compare their own facilities around the world as many of them are global suppliers. Many have zero waste initiatives. We started rewarding suppliers for what they do. Over 500 entries from suppliers this year. We bring them together for a ceremony each April and it means a tremendous amount to them as they take great pride in this award.”

3. Assembled purchasing committee of influence franchisees. “This is a group of some of our best operators from select restaurants around the world,” DeBiase said. They come together to deal with the cost impact of key stakeholders – in this case, franchisees. The committee is formed to share strategies around specific categories like beef, poultry, potatoes, bakery, distribution, waste, packaging, etc. Then these committee members go back and share the story, and with added credibility, since they are closer to the other franchisees, so it’s not just coming from on high.

DeBaise also mentioned that CEO, Don Thompson, is dedicated to corporate responsibility and has a “We can change the world” personal passion. “He understands the crossover between brand health and business health and what sustainability can do for our business. The corporate culture is both top down and bottom up – It’s everywhere.”

Finally, we heard from SealedAir. Yes, the “Bubble Wrap” people have a new mission and vision, as well as a new tagline and attitude… “Re-imagine SealedAir.”

Ron Cotterman, vice president of sustainability, discussed how to improve packaging and reduce waste in the supply chain: “People look at the supply chain using systems thinking. Often, one identifies a problem and solves that problem without thinking holistically about downstream and upstream issues: Can I have a bigger impact if I look at the picture in a bigger way? That’s the excitement by influencing supply chains by getting members across the supply chain together to think in a much more broad sense and see the outcomes and deep insights of how to drive business forward. Think beyond just solving problems to changing and evolving supply chains. At SealedAir, we do this through collaboration, innovation, hard work and a tremendous amount of effort. We are known as an innovator and we challenge our suppliers to bring us innovations.”

Cotterman continued: “One of the businesses we are in is Diversey Care, a new global leader in food safety and security, sustainable cleaning, sanitation and facility hygiene for SealedAir. Our branded products are helping create a focus point to create a sense of social well-being through things like the “Soap for hope” program. We understand the value of sanitation and hygiene. A key segment we serve is the hospitality industry. Through a series of conversations with one of our hotel partners, relative to soap waste, we connected with our local communities, made a business model outlining their needs and now provide a solution. Our hotel clients provide used soap that they reprocess into new bars. This creates local jobs and the new bars are given to the needy in the community. People are making this happen, not machines. We are doing this without using electricity. Unlike others, this is not a central processing facility, so we can address any waste problems, address a hygiene issue and doing this produces a livelihood for individuals as a source of income. It’s a scalable business model. This program was formally launched last year and expanding now in Bali, Cambodia, Manila, Dubai, Bangkok. We are excited as we drive results and look forward to sharing the success of the program. It is a great partnership between SealedAir, our hotel customers and the communities they serve.”

Cotterman concluded: “We often use the term ‘shared value.’ At the end of the day, all of our programs have to have shared value, because it’s not just about SealedAir, it’s about what we make happen in the marketplace, and how we bring and scale it in the broader sense. I get a chance to drive all these programs that are so much bigger than the people can initially imagine. That’s the spirit of our new tag line—‘Re-Imagine SealedAir’—and we’re making it happen through sustainability.”


Posted March 19, 2014 in CR Blog