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Where Did You Fall Short in 2011?

<p>The end of the year is a perfect time to reflect on where you've succeeded, as well as where you need to work harder next year. Sustainability leaders from leading green companies and organizations tell us about where they fell short and the lessons they learned in the past year.</p>

With 2011 coming to a close and 2012 just around the corner, GreenBiz asked executives from a range of companies and organizations to reflect on the past year and look at what lies ahead.

They obliged by telling us about their accomplishments, goals, their thoughts about what will drive sustainability in 2012 and how they and their firms can do better in the coming year.

Here's what they said when we asked:

Where did you fall short in 2011, or what lessons did you and your company learn?

Kathrin BelliveauNeil Hawkins, Vice President of Sustainability and Environment, Health & Safety, Dow Chemical Company

We continue to learn lessons, along with the rest of the business community, about the divide between environmental/social issues and the appetite of markets to adapt, and sometimes pay, for new solutions that address those issues. Bringing innovations to market is a costly proposition filled with uncertainties -- economic and political volatility, lack of clear and consistent regulation, and lack of guarantees for ROI. Even facing these headwinds, we have learned to continue investing in a more sustainable future. Because these winds, too, will change.

peter malikBart Alexander, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, Molson Coors

Our biggest lesson was to communicate what we're doing and where we are going in simple terms. Our people and our consumers are not interested in a lot of CSR or sustainability jargon. They want to know what we care about and what we're doing as a result.

So, we invented "Our Beer Print."  We all know that whenever you put a beer down, you leave a ring or "beer print" on the coaster or table. Just like that, our company leaves its beer print on our people, communities and the earth.  Our job is to grow our positive beer print, such as our investment in communities, and shrink our negative beer print, such as harmful drinking.

Adam Mott, Corporate Sustainability Manager, The North Face

We need to do a better job of further understanding and addressing our water footprint, including water use and wastewater treatment. The apparel industry is a heavy user of water and we need a stronger focus on this issue moving forward.


Alison Taylor, Vice President, Sustainability-Americas, Siemens Corporation

We knew that walking the talk was essential to our sustainability story, and to our relationships with customers. We may not have fully recognized the challenge of meeting the sustainability goals we set for our company before the economic downturn. The good news is, we can relate to our customers when they tell us about the tough choices they're making between energy efficient operational changes and other business priorities in this economy. We face the same choices. The bad news is, we would have wished to make more progress in meeting our own goals.  One lesson learned: The value of credible baseline data can never be underestimated.

Drummond Lawson, Green Giant (Director of Sustainability), Method

Rising commodity costs were a big challenge in 2011. Higher costs for energy, plant-derived oil feedstocks, and plastic resin impacted all of Method's businesses. Our response is to continue to seek out low-embedded energy materials, recycled resins, and to reduce our reliance on feedstocks like palm oil where possible.

Rick Fedrizzi, CEO and Founding Chairman, U.S. Green Building Council 

We're always learning lessons here at USGBC. The green building industry is evolutionary and dynamic -- new technologies, strategies and techniques emerge every day and we strive to keep ahead of the curve. We strive to raise the bar and push the limits of sustainable, green design, construction, operations and maintenance of our buildings, homes and communities. With that comes listening to our members, learning what works and what doesn't and adjusting to make sure we're giving the community the green building tools it needs to be successful.

Amy Hargroves, Manager, of Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint

We did not nail down our 3-year plan. We made incredible progress and were able to use our strategic plan to shape our 2011 efforts, but we discovered that we needed additional time for our executive team to fully understand the breadth of our CR opportunities and how it fits with our business strategy. We ended the year with a charge from our CR Steering Committee to expand our strategy even further than we were anticipating, so believe the understanding has now taken place and we are ready to formalize the plan.

A lesson: We're nearly at the point in our CR journey where we can fully integrate CR into our efforts. We have been able to accomplish a great deal leveraging CR champions in key areas, but to move to the next level, needed to educate the entire executive team on the breadth of CR, its importance to the business, and then repeatedly demonstrate the full commitment of our CEO to the team. There is no longer any doubt that CR is here to stay and is helping our business performance.

Susan Arnot Heaney, Director, Corporate Responsibility, Avon Products

A positive lesson from 2011: even in times of global economic challenges, Avon was able to raise $1.4 million to help end deforestation through the Hello Green Tomorrow global fundraising – an increase over 2010. Research supports it and our fundraising proves it:  even in tough times, people care about the planet and want to help.

Robert C. ter Kuile, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Global Public Policy, PepsiCo 

What defines a corporation as “sustainable” continues to evolve as new topics, disciplines and stakeholders emerge. We’ve learned that some of the best ideas can come from the most unexpected places. Empowering employees and supporting grassroots efforts and creative thinking as we continue to evolve as an organization is more important than ever.

Steve Clemente, Principal in Charge, Operations Services and Leader of Living Green initiative, KPMG

As people become more educated on sustainability, new opportunities arise for us as a firm to add value to our clients’ success as they establish their sustainability programs.  Sustainability is a journey and KPMG is committed to this journey for ourselves and for the clients we serve.

Eric Dresselhuys, Executive Vice President, Silver Spring Networks

We failed to make the conversation about the billions of dollars of value and the millions of mega tons of carbon that is being removed, and we let the conversation be dominated by the fraction of the 1% crowd who are expressing their frustration with the very system we are trying to improve.

Rupesh Shah, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Intuit

We launched a website called Green Your Business as part of Intuit’s Community portal. The Green Your Business site has industry-specific actions to help small businesses act greener, save money, and strengthen reputations. Intuit prides itself in the concept of launch and learn. While we had some good content, site traffic was minimal.  We received some great feedback around keeping content fresh and best practices to engage with our audience. We’re hoping to incorporate some of that feedback into a more useful community in 2012.  

Carl Rush, Senior Vice President, Organic Growth, Waste Management

We've learned that all of our opportunities arise from the sustainability movement, and because of that, we're focused on becoming the leading environmental services provider. A challenge for us is changing public perceptions of Waste Management - from a company that traditionally collected and disposed of trash, to one that finds innovative ways to create value - whether it be energy or materials - from the waste stream. Many are surprised to hear that we produce more waste-based renewable energy than the entire U.S. solar industry. 

Chris King, Chief Regulatory Officer, eMeter

My biggest lesson learned?  That patience, persistence, and hard work do pay off, specifically with the Siemens purchase of eMeter.  But this lesson applies to working with all the participants in the smart grid: utilities, policymakers, regulators, partner companies. As an industry, we fell short in not having a common vision of smart grid benefits for consumers and not communicating those benefits effectively to consumers.

Michael Frank, Vice President of Operations, US Foods

We’ve learned that even small improvements, such as installing energy-efficient, high-intensity fluorescent lights, and adding motion sensors to previously retrofitted fixtures, can add up to impactful savings.  In our case, we reduced our energy use by 2 million kWh in 2011 through lighting retrofits alone.

Kathrin Belliveau Kathrin P. Belliveau, Esq., Vice President, Corporate Responsibility and Government Affairs, Hasbro

In developing our inaugural CSR report, our biggest lesson learned was around the importance of ensuring internal alignment. The process of putting CSR initiatives into place requires a tremendous amount of internal collaboration, teamwork, and commitment—while the Report is the “output,” the process itself is an invaluable tool for driving alignment and team collaboration across your organization.

Peter Malik, Director of the Center for Market Innovation at the Natural Resources Defense Council

Being an ex-banker, I learned that the environment is the long game. Of course I knew that coming into it, but living it is different from merely knowing it. Things can take years, if not decades! That is very different from the deal mentality I was used to, with instant gratification or disappointment. That must be my lesson for the year: give it the same intensity as if you were working on a deal, but know it may take you years to see any result!

Eric Olson, Senior Vice President, BSR

I am never able to shake the feeling that despite our best efforts, we are making less progress less quickly than we need to, whether measured in terms of GHG emissions or achievement of the MDGs. To that end, we have been trying to focus our work more effectively in a smaller number of high-impact areas, but we’re not there yet.

Leaping photo via Shutterstock.

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