Green business execs reveal their greatest ambitions for 2017

Sergey Nivens
Some of today's corporate sustainability leaders let us in on their moonshot goal.

This article is part of a three-part series. Read part 2 and part 3.

As 2016 ends and 2017 begins, we asked members of the GreenBiz Executive Network, our member-based, peer-to-peer learning forum for sustainability professionals, to look ahead and share their vision for their upcoming efforts.

Here's what our members said when we asked: What is your biggest ambition for your company’s sustainability efforts in 2017?

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

My greatest hope is to be able to embed sustainability more deeply into our operating businesses and business development. I want to help them understand the business case for sustainability and help them to be able to articulate it to their clients and customers. Mobilizing our leadership moves us from a corporate staff of nine people to over 10,000 across the U.S. We have a perfect opportunity because we are deploying Better Tomorrow 2025, which is our evolved roadmap for sustainability and corporate responsibility.

Kim Marotta, global senior director corporate responsibility, MolsonCoors:

As we embark on the next phase of our goal-setting in 2017, we aim to reassess our materiality across our global operations and harmonize our focus areas with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). The recent spotlight on SDGs has provided us a tremendous opportunity to engage our internal stakeholders from various parts of the business in discussions about goal-setting, shaping our priorities and putting these priorities at the heart of our strategy.

This framework can open up opportunities for us to address our material issues in an integrated manner and develop transformative solutions that not only future-proofs our operations, but also can help our business remain commercially sustainable.

Keith Kenny, VP global sustainability, McDonald's

As a brand that is present in more than 36,000 diverse communities in over 100 countries, we are at an interesting stage in our sustainability journey as we look to evolve our sustainability framework and integrate it deeper into our brand purpose. This is our challenge for 2017 and beyond as we need to have a framework that is broad enough to resonate in all those communities but also specific enough so that our customers understand what is important for us.

Patrick Flynn, director, sustainability, Salesforce


Salesforce's sustainability priority remains making swift, steady and impactful progress toward our major corporate commitments to reach net-zero carbon emissions and 100 percent renewable energy.


Alexis Ludwig-Vogen, ‎director, corporate responsibility and sustainability, Best Buy:

I believe climate change is the most important environmental issue right now. I want to see Best Buy lead the way in transitioning to a low-carbon economy, not only by reducing our energy consumption and sourcing more renewables, but by helping our customers reduce their environmental impacts, too. In 2017, I want Best Buy to be the destination for sustainable products..

Charles Herget, AVP sustainability integration, AT&T:

AT&T will focus its efforts on two key areas: Our Smart Cities initiative and our efforts to achieve our 10x carbon reduction goal. Our Smart Cities initiative will pilot new technologies in selected "spotlight" cities and universities — including Atlanta; Chicago; Dallas; Miami-Dade County; Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Georgia Institute of Technology.

These solutions will focus on infrastructure, citizen engagement, transportation and public safety, as we develop and implement new ways to help communities solve problems and seize opportunities to be more sustainable and innovative. We also will continue working toward our 2025 goal to enable carbon savings 10 times the footprint of our company’s own operations by enhancing the efficiency of our network and delivering sustainable customer solutions — which include many of the Smart Cities technologies.

Katie Excoffier, sustainability manager, Genentech:

Environmental sustainability and employee well-being have long been priorities for Genentech. In 2017, we will take a more integrated approach to these priorities, working to better understand the connections between them and to progress initiatives that realize measurable environmental and wellbeing benefits. We already have taken steps in this direction. This year, we opened a new community center on campus, B34, dedicated entirely to our employees’ wellbeing, and our first building to pursue WELL Building certification.

The opening of B34 comes on the heels of B35 which we opened in 2015, until then the most environmentally friendly and healthy building on campus. In 2017, we will closely monitor the operation of these two new buildings and garner input from their occupants with the goals of better understanding how re-imagining our approach to real estate can benefit our employees, the planet and ultimately the people who need our medicines.

Paul Holdredge, manager, resources strategies, General Electric

We made some big strides in 2016 by leveraging GE’s own product offerings, such as LED lighting upgrades from Current by Powered GE at several of our facilities and upgrading our equipment to further minimize HFC losses in manufacturing. 

In 2017 we will be focused on scaling our visibility to energy conservation measures. To do that, we’ll be deploying digital energy monitoring at select facilities. We are also excited to accelerate our on-site solar. We completed several installations in 2016, and expect to grow our PV footprint even further in 2017 to help reduce our electricity costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Emilio Tenuta, vice president, corporate sustainability, Ecolab:

Each year the United Nations designates a theme for World Water Day highlighting a specific aspect of freshwater.  The theme in 2017 will focus on wastewater. This provides an important opportunity to highlight the connection between water and wastewater in the quest for circularity. Our ambition for 2017 is to advance the operationalization of circular principles for water use by industry. 

It is quite possible there is no resource with more circular potential than water. When we maximize the potential of water by 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.

Specific ways we will do this include:

  • We will seek to advance understanding of water’s full value to business by helping business leaders assess and internalize the impact of available water supplies and water quality on current and future business growth. In 2017, we will introduce an updated version of the Water Risk Monetizer that incorporates but water availability and quality to provide a more comprehensive risk analysis. By providing a full view of water’s value, we aim to help companies make the business case implement water management practices that move beyond conservation to reuse and recycling.
  • We will increasingly leverage data, analytics and connected technology to enable more efficient water reuse and recycling.
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