Makower: What drove this whole process? Why did you make this kind of commitment in the first place, particularly since so much of your carbon footprint didn’t have to do with any of your own operations?
Challis: The research that we’ve seen and have conducted ourselves has shown us that people, more and more around the world, are expecting companies like RB to take steps to address sustainability issues. So, there’s certainly a consumer call, although we do recognize that at the moment, it’s only a very small minority of consumers who are really seeking out specific green brands. Our consumers are more interested in us making sure that, for the products that they have always bought and wish to buy, that we are taking those steps and helping them along the way. So, there’s that consumer piece.
A big piece for me is the retailers—the Walmarts of this world who are, back in 2007 and then increasingly since, talking about sustainability. So, there’s a direct commercial element there.
One thing that people don’t talk about as much is the strides to innovation. Going back to that Carbon20 Calculator, this is another way to help RB people innovate, to provide them with inspiration, to provide them with information and analysis to help them make different choices, and to understand the impacts of their choices. I think that’s one of the key things: that RB is providing that information, not just as at a corporate level, but at a product-specific level. It really does help with the innovation process.
Finally, employees—especially younger graduates who want to work for a responsible company. We’ve been seeing this trend for years. RB has a very specific culture, and we want to attract the best graduates into our companies; we want them to be excited about working here. More and more, people are interested in sustainability and working for, basically, an innovative company and a responsible company. So, demonstrating that commitment and progress to a prospective employee, as well as our existing employees, is another of those key drivers and remains incredibly important for us.
Makower: So, where do you go from here? You’ve exceeded your 2020 goal. Have you set another stretch goal? What happens next?
Challis: When we were approaching the end of Carbon20, we took a good hard look at what we’ve achieved—what was good about the program and how the world had changed. We went through a process over a couple of months looking at the big sustainability megatrends affecting the world—which of those were really impacting RB, which of those RB could most influence—and we came up with a list of sustainability megatrends that RB felt that it could and should address in the future, and going beyond carbon into other areas of sustainability. Our plan is to launch that new set of objectives late this summer.
Makower: I’ll look forward to seeing those.
Challis: I think we’re at a stage now where we’re pretty sure what we’re going to focus on, but we are going through the process of refining our targets and making sure that we have the systems in place so we can start working on them. Because we’re not here just to set PR goals, but to do the things that are important to our business. What I can say now is we won’t lose our focus on carbon because that remains an incredibly important issue for the world, and for RB. But we’ll be expanding that to include things like water scarcity as well as the social side to sustainability.