Sustainable Business Summit
December 7, 2022
A year of invaluable ESG discussions and community building across the globe, with COP27 in the mix, culminated in our flagship summit in New York City. Business leaders and investors explored with us how they can meet their ambitious ESG goals while driving business value, and how the role of business in driving a sustainable future has never been more critical. We explored trends in sustainable finance, how to approach reporting and regulatory challenges, and the role of technology in accelerating sustainability efforts.
- Dr. Manar Al Moneef, Chief Investment Officer, NEOM
- Ezgi Barcenas, Chief Sustainability Officer, AB InBev
- Crystal Barnes, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility & ESG, Paramount
- Jennifer Bisceglie, CEO, Interos
- Amalia Bryant, Software Engineer, Checkr
- Suzanne DiBianca, Executive Vice President, Corporate Relations & Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce
- Devin Glenn, Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Blackstone
- Sandra Goldmark, Director of Sustainability & Climate Action, Barnard College & Senior Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Engagement, Columbia Climate School
- Pooja Goyal, Partner & Chief Investment Officer, Carlyle Global Infrastructure
- Jonathan Hackett, Managing Director & Co-Head of BMO’s Energy Transition Group & Head, Sustainable Finance, BMO
- Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action & Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action Team, United Nations
- Ellen Holloman, Partner, Global Litigation Group, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft
- Dr. Cait Lamberton, Alberto I. Duran President’s Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
- Peter McGuinness, CEO, Impossible Foods
- John Pagano, Group CEO, Red Sea Global
- Vijay Sankaran, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Johnson Controls
- Daniel Yanisse, Co-Founder & CEO, Checkr
- Kareem Yusuf, Head of IBM Sustainability Software, IBM
- Shaheen Contractor, ESG Research Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence
- Abby Danzig, Senior Programming Director, Bloomberg Green & Sustainability Events
- Leslie Kaufman, Reporter, Bloomberg Green
- Lauren Kiel, General Manager, Bloomberg Green
- Kailey Leinz, Anchor, Bloomberg Television
- Carol Massar, Anchor, Bloomberg Businessweek TV & Radio
- Meg Szabo, Senior Editor, Bloomberg Green & Sustainability Events
- Katrina White, Sustainable Finance Associate, BloombergNEF
- Erika Williams, Greenwood Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies
- Jennifer Zabasajja, Anchor, Bloomberg Quicktake
In Conversation With Selwin Hart
Among the headlines from COP27 was the breakthrough “Loss and Damage” fund for vulnerable countries. Selwin Hart, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Climate Action & Assistant Secretary-General for the Climate Action Team, United Nation, said local funding was already there, noting aid extended in response to events like Pakistan’s flooding. “It now needs to be done at a scale that is commensurate with what we know will happen with the climate crisis.”
On conference outcomes, “We went into COP27 with fears that they would be significant backsliding on what was achieved in Glasgow. That did not happen,” Hart said, going on to give details of what was accomplished, including “explicit references to accelerating the deployment of renewables.” He expressed incredulity at renewables coming up for the first time at a climate conference.
Advisory Board Panel: The Role of Business in Climate Action
Jonathan Hackett, Co-Head, BMO Energy Transition Group & Head, Sustainable Finance, BMO said that a lot of what they do is helping corporates understand what’s important in this space, what their stakeholders are actually concerned about, and how to prioritize those things, “because, to the data problem, it’s a very long list, well beyond a return on investment curve.” Data has to be about measuring what drives an organization’s risk, not just checking a box, giving stakeholders, investors and collaborators the insight they need to understand its impact on the world.
John Pagano, Group CEO, Red Sea Global spoke to the marketing challenge and avoiding accusations of greenwashing, saying the more you talk about it, the bigger the risk. “The approach that we’ve taken is one whereby we don’t say anything unless we can back it with evidence.” Their sustainability reports include everything they are doing, even initiatives that didn’t hit their goals. “The more transparent an organization is, the more credible the information you put out there is going to be, and the more confident your stakeholders will have in what it is you’re doing.”
It’s about all stakeholders getting involved, according to Kareem Yusuf, Head of IBM Sustainability Software, IBM, and how reducing operational costs is essential for businesses to make ESG progress. “We do our best when focused on known goals, and then enhancing with sustainability.” Goals have to be linked to everyday actions, such as first understanding how energy is used in a facility in order to moderate it. The first step is getting a handle on ESG data, “because then you can baseline, set goals, then you can begin to measure your progress.”
The New Sustainability Team
Using behavioral science to permeate an institution with its ESG goal responsibilities, as opposed to having an ESG officer, can backfire, according to Dr. Cait Lamberton, Alberto I. Duran President’s Distinguished Professor of Marketing, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Companies do workshops to make it everyone’s job, “and then it’s nobody’s job.” She compared it to everyone in a firm knowing that they are responsible for its financial well-being, “but nobody ever says, ‘Let’s get rid of the CFO’.” She also spoke to consumer perspective on products, with manufacturing processes far outweighing how raw materials are sourced.
On greenwashing and the CTO’s role in accountability, Vijay Sankaran, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Johnson Controls said it’s about how data is collected, standardized, tracked and equated to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions and plans for reduction. “We’ve built a platform, called OpenBlue, to help companies do that, with the data verification. Everybody is super motivated around the challenge of resolving sustainability issues and reducing emissions and climate change, but the operation piece of it is really, really important.”
In Conversation With Peter McGuinness
The key to controlling the climate crisis – plant-based meat – is suffering from a lack of a coherent message, standardization and a massive communications challenge, said Peter McGuinness, CEO, Impossible Foods. Food production systems account for a third of the planet’s carbon emissions. “There is no other tool out there to reverse climate change other than food. The scale is huge.” His perspective is that the industry has not really been established, but has been around “in earnest, for about five years.”
Plant-based meats – a misnomer that contributes to the issues – have come a long way. Their “beef” product is on iteration 2.5, with 3.5 to 4 needed to perfect it for taste and texture, and to reduce fat and sodium. Comparing production of 50 million pounds of plant-based with animal meat, “We’ll use 4.5 billion less gallons of water, we would save 37 million trees, and we would avoid 1.5 billion pounds of CO2.”
What We’re Watching
Shaheen Contractor, ESG Research Analyst, Bloomberg Intelligence offered observations and takeaways from COP27, including more-nuanced discussions on carbon markets and carbon reduction goals, and the major topic of the “loss and damage” fund. “The frustration was around emissions reduction; the fact that we didn’t really build upon what we saw last year at Glasgow. All the reports around temperature and warming were fresh in everyone’s minds, so there was this real angst that I could sense on the ground.”
Katrina White, Sustainable Finance Associate, BloombergNEF is looking forward to seeing a lot more climate data in 2023, and potential SEC regulations. “Here in the U.S., we’ve been a bit behind when it comes to sustainability data regulations, but in this past year, the regulators have started to step up, in line with the EU.” Under the SEC proposals, data will increase from both corporations and investors, and all public companies will have to start reporting carbon emissions and exposures to climate risk.
Uncovering New Talent With Fair Chance Hiring
Daniel Yanisse, Co-Founder & CEO, Checkr said there are 70 million people in the U.S. with criminal records, disproportionately minorities, being blocked from being hired by mistakes from their past. “Many companies want to be diverse, but they reject these candidates. There’s a lot of friction. At Checkr, a big part of our mission is to debunk the myths that they are dangerous people.” This segment of millions of potential workers can help fill the talent gap. “At the end of the day, companies need to see the financial advantage. We show them how second-chance hiring can improve their business and brand.”
Amalia Bryant, Software Engineer, Checkr is one of more than 50 Checkr employees who were formerly incarcerated. She described a not-so-easy transition from prison to software engineer that started with rehabilitating herself and getting a degree while still behind bars. “I started with coding bootcamp in prison. It’s an essential kind of program.” Yet, 10 years on, her record was still showing up on background checks. “I was not going to get the job.” A workplace advocate and counselor, and a supervisor focused on her growth, are the support she needs now.
Circularity for Success: Net Zero Across All Three Scopes
Sandra Goldmark, Director of Sustainability & Climate Action, Barnard College & Senior Assistant Dean for Interdisciplinary Engagement, Columbia Climate School discussed leveraging circular economy principles as a strategy for reducing Scope 3 emissions while reducing waste and building community connections and creating jobs. “It’s a strategy that can be deployed at every level, from the community to the business to the global.” She spoke to “creating worlds” as a theater set designer; “miniature versions of the take, make, waste that characterizes the world off-stage,” as motivation to rethink “business as usual.”
Advisory Board Panel: Investing With Purpose
Dr. Manar AlMoneef, Chief Investment Officer, NEOM spoke to seeking global partners that share their core sustainability values. Just a few years ago, sustainability and investment weren’t found in the same sentence. “People used to tell you that anything sustainable was not going to be economically driven. In today’s world, it’s actually the opposite.” The proof is that sustainable businesses and products now have a better market cap of 10-15%. “Most importantly, it’s the purpose and productivity. People today, specifically millennials, as well as the new generation, feel that if they’re in a company that adds value, a company that they can connect to the purpose, productivity improves significantly.”
Driving internal investments in sustainability takes convincing leaders that climate change is not going to wait, said Suzanne DiBianca, Executive Vice President, Corporate Relations & Chief Impact Officer, Salesforce. Meeting recently with their board about their corporate targets, “I told them, we have seven years and two weeks, essentially, to keep to a safe degree of warming, and reduce global emissions by 50%, and they rose last year.” They also made $8 million this year on their renewable energy projects. “Climate change won’t wait for whatever’s happening in the company and the world. And when emissions are reduced, the company saves money. Done right, both businesses and the planet benefit.”
The State of the ‘S’ in ESG
“We thrive in the “S.” That’s where we get busy,” said Crystal Barnes, Senior Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility & ESG, Paramount. She is seeing companies digging deeper with their commitments. “For us, it’s been leaning into our super power. We know that media has the ability to change minds, to change culture, to contribute to culture, and so, we have a strong responsibility to that.” They have “poured their hearts” into an initiative called Contact for Change.
Devin Glenn, Global Head of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, Blackstone spoke to her firm’s social pivots and said she sees hope in viewing DEI through the lens of a talent function; how they support employees and seek the best talent. “What we find is that those good practices apply to everyone. We’re thinking about widening the funnel to increase access to opportunities, but the bar is still the bar,” she said, when it comes to searching for talent. As the first person in her role at Blackstone, she has focused on making sure they are actually headed in the right direction. “One of the reluctances we have is to stop doing things, even when they aren’t working.”
Ellen Holloman, Partner, Global Litigation Group, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft said they are really keeping an eye on ESG litigation, especially in Europe, where there are well-advanced lawsuits over issues like climate reporting. “Here in the United States, we’re starting to see an emergence of anti-ESG litigation, and that’s what we have to be prepared for and ready to push back against.” That includes government pushback, she said, using the example of Disney’s tax status issue after it opposed a law prohibiting teaching gender-diverse concepts in schools.
The Sustainable Supply Chain Challenge
Ezgi Barcenas, Chief Sustainability Officer, AB InBev noted that about six years ago, they moved sustainability functions into their supply chain, after realizing that’s where the greatest impact and risks are, and where they can continue to build partnerships. “It’s really changed the dynamics of how we engage with our suppliers. We started having more strategic, more long-term conversations, as opposed to just transactional discussions.” To create external alignments, they developed a collaboration platform for all their suppliers and partners to work together on innovative solutions.
On maintaining momentum, Pooja Goyal, Partner & Chief Investment Officer, Carlyle Global Infrastructure, said data analytics is incredibly important, “but what we’ve also realized is there’s a lack of consistency in how the data is calculated and reported, and in terms of the metrics that people will look at. There’s no standardization.” That prompted Carlye to lead the ESG Data Convergence Project, and agreed with partners to work on a standard set of metrics.
No matter what the solutions, at the end of the day, businesses have to make money, said Jennifer Bisceglie, CEO, Interos. Moves are being made by organizations to new opportunities that include the “massive change” of upskilling of labor, after three years of supply chain woes in which to make investment decisions and cultural and leadership shifts. With those changes came a new understanding. “The conversations I’m having now with CEOs of world brands I was not having five years ago, because our CEOs are realizing how closely the health of their supply chain is to their business bottom line.”
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