What Poses the Biggest Sustainability Challenge to Your Company in 2011?

What Poses the Biggest Sustainability Challenge to Your Company in 2011?

As 2010 draws to a close, GreenBiz asked executives from a range of companies -- all of whom have been featured in the news this year -- to tell us about the most exciting green prospects, challenges and changes they anticipate for 2011, and what they think 2011 will look like from the perspective of 2012.

Here's what they told us when we asked:

What do you see as the biggest potential challenge for your company in 2011?

Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft

For Microsoft, our biggest challenge is raising awareness among technology leaders and decision-makers (CIOs and tech purchasers for example) on the challenges presented by energy constraints. Currently, when I look across the industry, I see IT professionals who are not focused on energy; they see it as a mid-term problem rather than near term. There's a train coming down the track regarding energy consumption. Right now, they don't see it and they aren't worried, but they should be.

Joseph Danko, Director of Sustainable Solutions, CH2M HILL

The economy. We expect continued slow economic recovery and this will impact our rate of business growth.


Michael Meehan, Chief Technology Officer, Co-Founder ENXSuite

The good thing about the cleantech market is that there are a vast number of opportunities and various segments of the market are still quite nascent. Navigating opportunities sounds like a "champagne problem" but it's not as easy as it sounds -- all companies in this space will continue to evolve their go to market and place their bets on the most promising opportunities. Placing the right bets on opportunities in cleantech is the biggest challenge for all companies.

Eric A. Spiegel, President and CEO, Siemens Corporation

It's pretty clear that we're not going to do much in terms of any kind of global or even federal carbon legislation.  And so the challenge is going to be how do you keep the momentum going for an environmental portfolio in an environment where the federal legislation probably isn't going to help much? My prediction is you're going to see a lot driven by cities and states.

Suzanne Shelton, Founder, President and CE, Shelton Group

Though we're seeing many companies settling into true sustainability commitments, we're still seeing a lot of resource constraint. There's been a trend for a while for corporations to name a VP of sustainability, give that person an FTE or two and then no actual budget to do anything meaningful with -- from conducting an LCA to building a true brand platform around sustainability.  As long as that continues it will be tough for the folks who actually have a terrific sustainability story to tell to actually tell it, and, as an ad agency exclusively focused in the sustainability space, tough for us to help our clients tell it.

Michel Gelobter, Chief Green Officer, Hara

Keeping up with demand for our solution and all you can do with it -- a good challenge to have! Faced with the radical visibility/transparency on energy and resource use that our software creates, our customers will be demanding help with data-driven innovation in energy use, capital and operating expense optimization, and value creation.

Kevin Surace, Chairman and CEO, Serious Materials

Initial cost of retrofits for customers.



Lynelle Cameron, Director of Sustainability, Autodesk

In the last few months, we announced an array of transformational technologies to help our customers imagine, design, and create a better world ... We realize that introducing the best technology is only the first step. Changing behavior and getting people to adopt new design paradigms is an even bigger challenge. This will be our biggest challenge and focus for 2011.  We need to educate the design community to use new tools to make smarter, more sustainable decisions at every stage of the design and build process. As a cultural anthropologist by training, changing behavior is the aspect of my job that I love most. At the end of the day, sustainability is a systems problem and will require people coming together in new ways.

David Wilkerson, Corporate Director of Sustainability and Product Stewardship, Shaw Industries

Even with our strong commercial outlook, the residential market recovery is slow and unpredictable. This will be the biggest challenge for our entire industry in 2011. Prior to the recession, the industry and Shaw, saw a "sustainability boom." During these difficult financial times, the market is focusing more on cost.  As the market begins to recover, which may be beyond 2011, and manufacturing returns to full capacity, it is vitally important that the market does not lose focus on the environmental impacts and intense focus of the boom.

Tim Carey, Director of Sustainability and Technology, PepsiCo Americas Beverages

I prefer to view our "challenges" as opportunities!  We've got an exciting agenda for 2011, including recycling 20 million pounds of plastic bottles and aluminum cans through the PepsiCo Dream Machine recycling program, demonstrating the potential viability of a first, national-scale low carbon agricultural program for oranges with Tropicana, and expanding our use of 100 percent post-consumer recycled content in our beverage containers.

Adam Lowry, Co-Founder and Chief Greenskeeper, Method

We bring big innovation to low-interest categories, so our biggest challenge next year is the same as it always is: Making people aware of all the innovation we put into our products. As a relatively small brand, we don't have unlimited budgets to get people to try our products. We do know, however, that once people try Method, it's hard for them to buy anything else. So we will remain focused on getting new people to try Method and spread the word within their circles. It's the way we've always grown, and while it might not be the sexiest way to grow, it yields highly loyal advocates and sustainable growth that insulates us from the vagaries of tough economies or massive competitive spending.

Robert Houghton, President and Founder, Redemtech

The current financial climate will challenge companies' continued commitment to sustainability. It is up to service providers like Redemtech to help customers quantify and rationalize the benefits of environmentally and socially responsible business practices to the satisfaction of senior leadership and the shareholders. Fortunately, our industry achieved two important milestones in 2010 -- launch of the e-Stewards Electronics Recycling Standard and Gartner's first-ever Magic Quadrant on the IT asset disposition (ITAD) industry -- that make it easier for companies to evaluate their choices among ITAD providers and choose a vendor that aligns with financial, environmental and social goals.

Leisha John, Americas Director of Environmental Sustainability, Ernst & Young

Like many other professional services firms, we're watching for a potential uptick in travel as the economy improves. It is certainly an ongoing challenge to encourage our people to be mindful of their environmental impact when they travel, but we're excited by the increase in videoconferencing that has started to become the norm for several leaders within our firm.

Beth Shiroishi, Assistant Vice President of Citizenship and Sustainability, AT&T

For 2011 the biggest challenge and the most exciting opportunity for AT&T is activating our employees around sustainability in an authentic way.


Joseph Taylor, Chairman and CEO, Panasonic Corp. of North America

Economic troubles still appear to be dampening consumer enthusiasm for sustainable lifestyles.


Hannah Jones, Vice President of Sustainable Business and Innovation, Nike

Our goal for 2011 will be to remain focused on making a difference for the things that really matter. We want to build a portfolio of disruptive innovations in sustainable materials and manufacturing that will enable closed loop products and business models. While we can't flag what those are just yet, but we know we need to head in this direction, and fast, to prepare our company to thrive in a resource-constrained future.

Bill Morrissey, Vice President of Environmental Sustainability, The Clorox Company

We have a goal to make sustainability-related improvements to one-third of our product portfolio by 2013, our company's centennial anniversary. This involves addressing more than 300 product items around the world. This is a significant effort that involves multiple areas of our business but we are committed to reducing the footprint of our products as well as our operations.

Jim Hanna, Director of Environmental Impact, Starbucks

Over the last two years, Starbucks has been very active in advocating for comprehensive federal climate policy in Washington, D.C. We've been successful at raising awareness among key elected officials about the importance of strong climate policy, and we've helped break down perceptions that the business community is uniformly opposed to strong climate policy. However, this has not translated into moving pertinent legislation through Congress. We anticipate that 2011 will continue to be a challenging year for business leaders and other stakeholders who are advocating for aggressive climate policy in the U.S.

Chuck Bennett, Vice President of Earth and Community Care, Aveda

Maintaining our momentum if the economy continues to create challenges for our business.



Terry Yosie, President and CEO, World Environment Center

I believe there are at least three major challenges gaining momentum in the next year:  1) achieving value chain integration within an individual company's sustainability strategy, while effectively managing the growing complexity of information, logistics and networks of decision makers involved;  2) navigating the plethora of labeling and certification schemes; and 3) developing mechanisms that allow for greater pre-competitive collaboration among participants in key market segments (e.g., agriculture, consumer goods, technology).  A fourth challenge (really a hangover from previous years) is the greater responsibility placed on the shoulders of business in areas where government cannot or will not lead (e.g., education, public health, poverty reduction).

Arlin Wasserman, Vice President of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, Sodexo

Uncertainty in the economy and no clear public policy roadmap on climate change may make it harder to garner investment for long-term initiatives.


Leo Raudys, Senior Director of Environmental Sustainability, Best Buy

This year, we announced a new U.S. carbon footprint reduction goal of 20 percent by 2020, and 2011 will be an important year as we work to make serious progress in achieving that goal.

Photo CC-licensed by Chi King.