Archive for the ‘Retail’ Category

A week ago the Conversation Society hosted its third debate which looked at Sustainability: Is business doing enough? Is it OK to profit from sustainability?

First to talk from our panel was Jo Daniels, who is the Marketplace Director at Business in the Community. 

Jo starts of the discussion by saying “I think in terms of where we are in the agenda of corporate responsibility, I think there is a general acceptance now that it is okay to profit from sustainability and maybe when this whole movement started – I know when Business in the Community was started 30 years ago it was very much about how companies spent some of their profits on good charitable causes and investing in local communities and creating cohesive communities – and over the last 30 years the agenda has developed, it has become much more sophisticated and the challenges that companies are facing are ever more complex and challenging.  And so how we’re looking at a company’s positive impact on society and the environment, it’s right through its operations in terms of how it treats its workforce, through the impact of its products and services and some of its extended impact through its supply chain and its customer and consumer relationships.  So it’s much broader.”

Companies are moving towards a more sustainable business.  The real shift emerged about six years ago and it was really about changing the nature of the conversation and seeing how corporate responsibility creates value for the business. A lot of the retailers pay special attention to their supply chains and ensure satisfactory standards especially when it comes to child labour, excessive working hours, poor health and safety and bonded labour. Which is always reassuring to know!

Another question asked by Jo “How can we be part of a solution in tackling some of those key issues on the factory floor in our supply chain?”.  She comments further and states that there are different ways of working and it might involve working with different people who they’ve worked with before such as NGOs, and even their competitors, in order to tackle the root causes in their supply chain.  It is the business’ creativity and innovation that will be the ongoing solutions to the challenges faced. Competitively and collaboration will drive good practice which will be important to the well-being of any business.

It is further thought that corporate responsibility for CSR had been a department down a corridor that were the sales prevention team. When in fact business should be responsible and get all the different functions on board right and ensure that it is embedded into the commercial and business strategy.   Companies like Puma are starting to look at the finance around a price on the ecosystem services that they’re using, however, that is getting into a whole other department which probably before just saw CSR as a bit of a cost. But now, building that into how the business operates, is really, really important.

That collaboration between departments is where there will be evidence of this movement happening.  Unilever is another example of a brand-led company with their work being led by areas such as product innovation and working with their consumers. However, this concept has worked because it has needed the brand teams, the sustainability teams, the supply chain team, to work in collaboration (this is what will give them a competitive advantage.)

Another great example of investment into the supply chain is Cadbury who have invested 45 million pounds over ten years to take Cadbury Dairy Milk, Fair Trade.

Jo continued to talk about some great examples but ultimately sustainability looks at the external issues affecting us such as Population growth . It is to rise by 2050 reaching a total of 9 billion people, and by 2030, we will require 50% more energy to sustain the lifestyles currently had, with 50% more food, 30% more water. The future of sustainability looks uncertain but what will be key to further growth is ‘innovation’ and how the business model operates.

Jo’s final thoughts around the debate were “Is it okay to profit from sustainability and are businesses doing enough and going far enough?” my answers would be yes, absolutely – profit from sustainability – and,. “Are they going far enough?”  No.”