There's no doubt that the late business strategist C.K. Prahalad believed passionately in the connection between sustainability strategy and business success. In a 2009 Harvard Business Review article that I co-authored, Prahalad wrote, "Traditional approaches to business will collapse, and companies will have to develop innovative solutions. That will only happen when executives recognize a simple truth: sustainability equals innovation."
This week, the Corporate Eco Forum honored the vision and life's work of our advisor and friend by recognizing the 2014 C.K. Prahalad Awards winners: Robert Carter of FedEx, Tamara "TJ" DiCaprio of Microsoft and Global Water Challenge.
CEF established the C.K. Prahalad Award in 2010 to recognize globally significant private sector action that exemplifies the fundamental connection between sustainability, innovation and long-term business success in a globalizing world.
We've been fortunate to know both Rob Carter and TJ DiCaprio as dedicated CEF members who have openly shared their leadership and expertise over the years. C.K. Prahalad was adamant that companies need to embed sustainability throughout the organization, and both Carter and DiCaprio have blazed trails to accomplish this.
Rob Carter of FedEx
As executive vice president of information services and chief information officer at FedEx, Carter stands out as a leader among CIOs, grasping the potential of sustainable innovations to drive business success by unlocking savings, reducing risks and generating new revenues.
CEF recognized Carter for guiding the digital transformation of FedEx through technologies that improve data management operational efficiency, helping the company lower costs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. His accolades include leading his team, together with the FedEx Marketing team, in the development and international rollout of SenseAware, a service that combines sensors and a Web platform to track the conditions of shipments around the world, enhancing efficiency.
With Carter's leadership, FedEx has built a LEED certified enterprise data center in Colorado Springs that is among the most energy-efficient in the United States, and systems that help FedEx operations improve routing efficiencies for package pickup and delivery. Carter also pushed FedEx to use Bloom Energy solid-oxide fuel cells to power a hub in Oakland, Calif. Along with a large solar array, the Oakland hub is nearly grid neutral for electricity consumption.
TJ DiCaprio of Microsoft
DiCaprio's accomplishments are equally notable. In her role as senior director of environmental sustainability at Microsoft, she has established the tech giant's innovative internal carbon fee program. The program charges business units for carbon emissions from travel and electricity use, then reinvests the proceeds in energy efficiency, clean energy and carbon offset projects.
It enabled Microsoft to achieve carbon neutrality in fiscal year 2013 and become the second largest user of renewable energy in the United States. With a price on carbon, managers are seeing emissions reflected in their budgets for the first time, creating incentives to become even more efficient.
Just as impressive as the program itself is TJ's drive to share the platform with other companies so that the benefits can reach a meaningful scale. Earlier this year she authored the "Carbon Fee Playbook," a five-step guide for other companies to implement their own internal carbon fee programs, and she's been a tireless and inspiring ambassador.
Global Water Challenge
Finally, we were honored to welcome GWC Board co-chairs Ambassador Harriet C. Babbitt and former EPA Administrator William K. Reilly, who joined CEO Monica Ellis onstage to accept the award on behalf of Global Water Challenge.
A coalition of leading companies and civil society partners with a presence in over 200 countries, GWC was honored for its progress in inspiring companies and other donors to protect water resources and deliver clean water access and sanitation while sparking social and economic development in areas that need it most. At a time when "collaboration" is a buzzword, GWC is showing how it's really done, effectively bringing together business, civil society and local communities around the world for lasting impact.
We know that C.K. Prahalad would approve of the way that GWC is leveraging markets at the Base of the Pyramid in its efforts to close the gap between the rich and the poor. GWC has changed the rules of the game by making the business case for universal access to clean water supply, sanitation and hygiene, and has generated tens of millions in new investments in this sector while reaching at least 1 million people worldwide.
Honoring C.K. Prahalad
Joining us to deliver the awards, and bringing their own unique viewpoints to this celebration of global sustainability, were world-renowned ecologist Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, polar explorer Sir Robert Swan and corporate strategist Ernest von Simson.
The event provided an inspirational culmination of the first day of our annual retreat, attended by 150 senior executives representing CEF member companies with combined revenues of over $3 trillion. We are genuinely proud of all the CEF companies that are endeavoring to connect sustainability strategy and business success. I know C.K. would be thrilled.
Top image of C.K. Prahalad Awards from CEF video.