What Will Be the Biggest Driver for Corporate Sustainability in 2012?

What Will Be the Biggest Driver for Corporate Sustainability in 2012?

2012 image via Shutterstock.

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:

What will be the biggest driver for corporate sustainability in 2012? 

Bart AlexanderBart Alexander, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, Molson Coors

No. 1: Our own people. In our annual employee survey, almost nine out of 10 employees believe that we are environmentally responsible and responsible in the community. And these beliefs are one of the top drivers of their engagement. Our employees reflect the wider community: Consumers care about the company behind the brand.

No. 2: Money. Being more efficient and reducing risk is good business, particularly in unsettled times.

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

As a company that’s all about play, earning the trust of the children and families who enjoy our brands is extremely important and a driver behind all that we do. We hope that by providing transparency into our CSR goals and journey, it will give consumers added incentive to choose our products.

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

The biggest sustainability driver will be innovation. We will maintain a sustainability lens on our innovation efforts so they are aligned with our new 2015 Living Green goals. Innovation will change how we collaborate, engage employees and better serve our clients.

Eric DresselhuysEric Dresselhuys, Executive Vice President, Silver Spring Networks

The biggest driver will be a combination of policy and technology. There are great technologies coming onto the market as the result of the investments made over the last three to five years. They are commercially available and are proven to deliver value. The question therefore will be, will the policies at the state and federal level in the U.S. and globally allow for them to be adopted and scaled? If we don’t adopt technology, nobody will want to invest in developing it.

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

In the last 10 years, the impetus behind building green has shifted from being a good thing to do to a necessary thing to do. And the bottom line drives many of these decisions and making performance-driven choices of utmost importance.  With square footage of LEED-certified existing buildings trumping new construction for the first time, it's evident that decision makers are looking at their existing building stock and current properties and asking -- how can we make what we already have better?

Michael FrankMichael Frank, Vice President of Operations, US Foods

Investments that improve efficiency and workflow while allowing US Foods to meet customers' needs in an environmentally responsible way will drive much of our 2012 sustainability efforts.

Amy HargrovesAmy Hargroves, Manager, Corporate Social Responsibility, Sprint

I can think of several. The increasing linkage between corporate responsibility and corporate reputation/brand identity and increasing shareholder activism on key issues. Also, driven by our depressed economy, increased realization of the potential of corporate responsibility to reduce costs and risks.

Neil HawkinsNeil Hawkins, Vice President of Sustainability and Environment, Health & Safety, Dow Chemical Company

Companies will continue to move beyond sustainability as an obligation driven by outside forces. They will uncover more tangible economic value that drives both top and bottom line growth. But they'll need to get ahead of the curve in order to do that. They'll need to become savvy life cycle practitioners, innovators, and collaborators. The recognition that economic value drives sustainable development should influence decision-making at every turn, from capital investments, to hiring, to marketing products and services.

Chris KingChris King, Chief Regulatory Officer, eMeter

Technology will drive us forward to Smart Grid 2.0. We’ll see utilities adding data analytics software to plumb the rivers of data now pouring in from over 150 million smart meters globally, to operate more efficiently and reliably. We’ll see consumers getting new options for dynamic pricing, detailed usage information options, and prepayment from upgraded utility IT systems – and they’ll be able to purchase exciting new energy management devices, especially smart thermostats like those offered by Nest Labs, Tendril, EnergyHub, Control4, and others, from utilities and retailers, including Best Buy.

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

Technology and innovation. For Method, the emergence of next generation green chemistry manufacturers is massively important. Green tech innovation has extended to start-ups developing some high-performance, low-impact materials with amazing functional properties. We're looking at innovation in this area as an opportunity to continue to change the paradigm in performance and impact of green cleaners.

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

The world is changing. Commodity prices will continue to go up, ushering a different world for decision-makers. If in the past businesses focused primarily on labor efficiency and low capital costs, the future will increasingly see focus on commodity throughput efficiency. We live in a “peak price” world: There is plenty of everything in the ground, but it will get increasingly expensive to get at it. This will drive sustainability even in the absence of any sensible government behavior.

Adam MottAdam Mott, Corporate Sustainability Manager, The North Face

It depends on your company's values, scope of vision and the industry in which you do business. For most companies, it will be some combination of consumer demand, potential financial savings, constrained resources, regulatory requirements, long term business viability and company values.

Next page: Leaders from BSR, Waste Management, Intuit, Siemens, PepsiCo and Conservation International predict the drivers for corporate sustainability in 2012.

Eric OlsonEric Olson, Senior Vice President, BSR

Unfortunately, I believe we will continue to see the kinds of disruption -- both in the markets and in Mother Nature -- that have caused so many companies to question "business as usual" and to recognize the value of sustainability in navigating the risks and opportunity of a brave new operating environment.

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

I think we will continue to see an evolution in how companies view sustainability -- as an integral part of their business strategy to reduce risk, improve their supply chain and address their customers' needs and expectations.

Rupesh ShahRupesh Shah, Director of Corporate Sustainability, Intuit

I think continuing economic headwinds will force companies to think more about resource efficiency. Companies will dive deep and look for cost-saving opportunities to eliminate waste and operate leaner in the areas of operations, supply chain and distribution chains.

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

If we are instrumental in embedding sustainability into our supply chain, then we will spread sustainable practices much more effectively than simply reducing our own operational footprint. I think that many companies have recognized the opportunity that exists in their supply chains. But, our supply chains are large, global, and diverse. We will be talking about these challenges and opportunities in 2012.

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

Across all sectors, corporations have been setting five to 10-year sustainability goals and putting their organizations on a flight plan to be more socially, economically and environmentally responsible. As financial institutions start investing in companies that are setting and making progress toward long-term goals, and companies work closer with stakeholders and increase transparency in reporting, we'll make significant progress toward the best, long-term sustainable impact.clients.

Justin WardJustin Ward, Vice President of Business Practices, Conservation International

A key driver for 2012 and beyond will be the increase in demand for food, feed, fiber and fuels caused by population growth, expansion of the middle class, and urbanization. The impacts of climate change on agriculture may motivate companies to invest in production systems that ensure long-term crop yields along with the healthy soils, watersheds and pollinators essential for food security. This will require harnessing corporate supply chains in ways that go beyond certified product sourcing to stimulate the development of sustainable agricultural landscapes that promote healthy, resilient economies.

Leaders in the private sector are ahead of most governments in understanding the urgent need for an integrated strategy that delivers funding and technical support to enable farmers to adapt to climate change, and to maintain productivity and profitability while contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

2012 image via Shutterstock.