The GreenBiz Forum last week in San Francisco provided insights into sustainable business today across industry verticals in corporate America, companies’ environmental trends, and the progress made. Through a series of sessions and workshops, organizations shared practical insights of their progress toward sustainability, successful programs, and lessons learned.
Brittni Furrow - Director of Sustainability, Food and Consumables, at Walmart and Kim Marotta – Director of Sustainability at MillerCoors discussed how to plan, enact, and assess risks of sustainability programs in the supply chain.
A key challenge Walmart faced was the monumental task of developing criteria and standrds. Walmart looked at different verticals and product groups. The organization developed an index, a score card, that their buyers use for making purchasing decisions when assessing suppliers. The index includes sustainability categories that are relevant for each product or vertical. For example: Walmart developed a certain criteria and elements for dairy products and a different index for beverages and beer.
MillerCoors is one of Walmart’s suppliers. The beer industry looked closely at water quality and water issues, which have a great impact on the quality and taste of their products. In addition to water, MillerCoors looked at energy efficiency and the energy mix use (which represents a mix of renewables, fossil based fuels, etc.), water pollution, chemicals, residues, irrigation, etc.
By working with all the entities along the supply chain, cost savings emerge once sustainability-infused processes are involved. Walmart’s index and its sustainability requirements have created a 'push' effect that is being carried out along the entire supply chain of their suppliers, and the suppliers’ own chains.
For example, when Walmart drove sustainability standards to MillerCoors, the cascading effect was passed on to Hillside Ranch. Gary Beck, the Farm Manager at Hillside Ranch, Idaho, reported on changes made in their farming methods once faced with the new sustainable standards from MillerCoors. Beck said that when the farm examined water usage, they realized how much water was extravagantly used. Following the sustainability guiding principles and optimizing the farm methods have resulted in saving a significant amount of water in their operations.
While working with suppliers, initially Walmart is not expecting a perfect performance score card and allows suppliers to improve over a few years. Evolving challenges are incorporated into the expectations in order to creat effective and beneficial business partnerships. Walmart’s approach involves a score card for each supplier, requires transparency related to the goals Walmart set, and a performance evaluation that shows where the supplier stands against the index.
Other challenges involve the engagement of the hundreds of buyers in a large retail corporation. Buyers have the responsibility of large business transaction volumes. Getting them involved, as well as pushing Walmart’s sustainability requirements up-stream were a priority. The sustainability office fostered collaboration and provided the buyers with tools to conduct their business. This approach has proven to be beneficial, inspiring, and resulted in a buy-in. At the same time, Walmart incorporated accountability into the job descriptions and buyers' performance is also tied to sustainability performance.
The speakers also encouraged fostering collaborations in vertical consortiums and sharing the learnings as a significant way to gain traction with the organization’s sustainability efforts.
How to brand sustainability internally and externally?
Keep focusing on what the customers are looking for. What would matter to them? Focus on your business purpose.
When you tie a story to your product to strengthen the brand, if the story has elements of sustainability, then campaign them. MillerCoors uses the example of being the first to recycle aluminum cans. In 1959, Coors became the first American brewery to use an all-aluminum two-piece beverage can. Coors currently operates the largest aluminum can producing plant in the world in Colorado (the Rocky Mountain Metal Container - RMMC). The Coors family refined the cold-filtered beer manufacturing system and began America's first large-scale recycling program by offering 1-cent returns on Coors aluminum cans in the early 1960s, long before can recycling became mainstream.
GreenBiz.com's The State of Green-Business Report 2013 - The sixth annual edition
The report is a result of research which includes data on 1,600 companies worldwide, as well as on the U.S.-based S&P 500. For the 2013 report, GreenBiz partnered with Trucost, a leading research firm focusing on natural capital and sustainability metrics, to revamp the indicators by which the report assesses progress within the private sector in addressing global environmental challenges. The ‘Top Trends’ section looks at where the world of sustainable business is headed, which is an indication of the leading markers of future progress.
You can find the report here: