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Business leaders assess the 'interesting times' of 2017

Every so often I hear someone quote the famous Chinese proverb "May you live in interesting times." While it’s debatable as to whether it’s a blessing or a curse, the one thing we know is that it’s fake news (it originated in England).

While fake news may be the phrase of the year (sad!), I think it’s safe to say that we are living in interesting times. I reached out to members of the GreenBiz Executive Network to see what they found of interest this year and what mattered most to them. Here’s what I learned.

Ted Monk, Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility at Sodexo

Ted Monk, vice president, sustainability and corporate responsibility, Sodexo

In 2017, following the results of the U.S. election in late 2016, we reaffirmed our commitments to corporate responsibility with a number of internal statements and training classes. It was important to provide clarity at a time of change especially around our commitment to inclusion. 

We launched a new comprehensive roadmap for corporate responsibility called Better Tomorrow 2025. Creating engagement and awareness of our revised goals has been a big focus and will help to embed sustainability further into our systems and processes. Every part of our business is creating its plan to achieve these goals. 

Kathryn Spitznagle, Director of Global Sustainability, Caterpillar

Kathryn Spitznagle, director of global sustainability, Caterpillar 

In our 2016 Sustainability Report, we highlighted four areas of focus for Caterpillar, which have continued to be important focus areas though 2017: natural infrastructure, circular economy, women in leadership and energy access. Just to highlight one example, Caterpillar has set ambitious targets in several key areas to increase the mix of qualified, capable females across our enterprise to industry benchmark levels by 2022. These goals include increasing our total female workforce to 29 percent, a 9 percent increase over our current population, and the number of female leaders to 25 percent, a 6 percent increase over the current composition of our leadership. 

Karina Diehl and Kim Marotta, Coors

Karina Diehl, director community affairs, MillerCoors

Kim Marotta, global senior director corporate responsibility, Molson Coors

2017 was a formative year in Molson Coors’ sustainability journey. With MillerCoors wholly incorporated within the Molson Coors family at the end of 2016, we recognize that our strengthened position created an even greater responsibility for us to lead on the issues that face our industry. As we opened this new chapter in our company’s history, we took 2017 as an opportunity to set a new strategic vision and put forth a series of ambitious targets that will take us to 2025.

Our new sustainability strategy, Raising the Bar on Beer, is an exciting milestone for our business and our employees to rally around. In late 2017, we conducted an employee survey across our global organization. When asked about whether Molson Coors is committed to corporate responsibility, 87 percent of our employees agreed. Our employees recognize our company’s unwavering commitment to sustainability and are proud of the work we’re doing to strengthen our communities and our environment.

Carrie Schuster, Marketing Manager, Sustainability and Hygiene, Essity

Carrie Schuster, marketing manager, sustainability and hygiene, Essity

In 2017 Essity, formerly SCA, split off from the Swedish forestry business, acquired BSN Medical and got a new name focusing on the essential necessities for health and hygiene. Essity participated in a global dialogue as a partner with the United Nations foundation as a global compact signatory and on the Sustainable Development Goals to collaborate on sustainability initiatives worldwide. We also committed to the Science Based Targets initiative, became a member of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation Circular Economy 100.

Essity was one of only four companies to qualify for CDP’s A List for both Water and Forests, and received an A-minus for its management of climate change risk. We’ve further shown our commitment to transparency by participating in the WWF Environmental Paper Company Index 2017. The group received an overall score of 78.7 percent and 94 percent for its responsible fiber sourcing. 

Emilio Tenuta, Vice President, Corporate Sustainability at Ecolab

Emilio Tenuta, vice president, corporate sustainability, Ecolab

Our ambition for 2017 was to advance circular principles for water use in industrial operations. It is quite possible there is no resource with more circular potential than water. When we stop thinking of water as a consumable, and work on recycling, reusing and repurposing it, the possibilities for its use are endless. By providing accessible tools, relevant insights and innovative solutions, we aim to help companies across industries operationalize circularity to ensure business resilience in an increasingly water-constrained world.

We’ve made progress in driving a more complete understanding of water’s full value to business by helping business decision makers and influencers assess and internalize the impact of available water supplies and water quality on current and future business growth. In 2017, we upgraded our publicly available water risk assessment tool, the Water Risk Monetizer, so that it incorporates both water availability and quality to provide a more comprehensive risk analysis. We stepped up the use of data, analytics and connected technology to enable more smart water management practices. 

Jeannie Renné-Malone, VP Sustainability at Prologis

Jeannie Renné-Malone, VP Sustainability, Prologis

 As I look back at the extreme weather events earlier this year, the word that comes to mind is resilience. Resilience in terms of the perseverance of our employees, the quality of our buildings, the involvement in our communities and our ability to minimize disruption to our customers and our own business. September and October brought damaging hurricanes, earthquakes and fires to North America, a typhoon to Japan and many other extreme weather events across the globe which cost many lives, disrupted families and businesses and caused significant environmental, social and economic damage — much of which is still under repair.

The recently released National Climate Assessment unfortunately reveals that we most likely are going to continue to see this trend of extreme weather events. However, we need to keep an optimistic view of how we can minimize and reduce impacts both at a corporate and a personal level, and to prepare and adapt to the changing climate. I am proud of our holistic approach to environmental, social and governance issues, incorporating health and wellness into our business, giving back to communities, and our ongoing commitment to reducing our own impacts such as signing We are Still In earlier this year. I am optimistic that the resilience of our people, our business and our buildings will keep us strong in the face of future extreme weather events and other unforeseen global disruptions.

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