Overheard at GreenBiz16 – Day 1
Erica P and I are out here in Phoenix for GreenBiz 16 – an annual gathering of the juggernauts of all things sustainability and business. In the first 6 hours of the conference, here are a few thoughts on topics and trends.
“WE SURVEY 1700 SUPPLIERS, SOON TO BE 2000.” – WALMART
Walmart is digitally pushing into their supply chain on an annual basis to look for ways to save money, mitigate risk and grow their business. This is called sustainability. Last year they asked their suppliers to also provide impact data by units sold. Pounds of Co2 per box of tissues, for example. Those data fields were mostly left black.
Suppliers have no idea.
“ON-SITE ENERGY AUDITS ARE COMPLETED BY OUR SUSTAINABILITY TEAM AT ALL OUR FACILITIES. IN PERSON IS THE PRIMARY WAY WE CONNECT.” – WRANGLER
Wrangler’s parent company VF has an enormous apparatus for collecting and analyzing data. And yet, Wrangler has found that boots on the ground is the best way to collect supply chain data.
“IF YOU ARE A COMPANY WHO HAS 30,000 SUPPLIERS, YOUR SUPPLIER’S SUPPLIERS’ SUPPLIERS LIKELY MAKES UP MILLIONS OF COMPANIES.” – GREENBIZ
Supply chains are fractal in nature. They are huge complex ecosystems of repeating shapes and problems and overlaps. Mapping supply chains can be modeled through existing data sets, assumptions and other life cycle analysis tool.
But what would a real-time map look like of real-time data? What value would that bring to decision-making cycles?
Large companies struggle to make sense of annual survey data. Perhaps the reason is that annual data is only simply is a snapshot in time – a glance in the rearview mirror. Data frequency (aided by technology) can advance sustainability.
“SURVEY FATIGUE IS REAL.” – SUSTAINABLE APPAREL COALITION
We hear this a lot from customers. It’s a thing. Organizations like The Sustainability Consortium and Sustainable Apparel Coalition and some retailers re starting to collaborate on their surveys, but the fatigue is real.
“SCIENCE INFORMS OUR APPROACH.” – MARS
The chocolatier giant (who knew they also have a big pet food division …you know chocolate can kill dogs, right?) takes an incredibly rigorous scientific approach to all of its sustainability initiatives and strategies. Science, it seems is a big topic here at GreenBiz16
“WE HAVE TO DO SCIENCE DIFFERENT. HERE, WE DO SCIENCE FOR OUTCOMES, NOT FOR THE SAKE OF SCIENCE. OUTCOMES ARE VALUES. SUSTAINABILITY IS A VALUE. SUSTAINABILITY IS AN OUTCOME OF SCIENCE.” – ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY
ASU is wholly dis- and re-mantling how science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is done. They are training the next generation of scientists and engineers with sustainability at the core of the discovery process.
“WE NEED TO DECOUPLE BUSINESS GROWTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT” –TRUSTCOST PLC
This is such a simple and interesting topic. It’s one we need more thought and discovery on. Part of the answer is tied up in the concept of a circular economy. But as GreenBiz Senior Analyst John Davies noted, the concept of a circular economy is a little like the concept of sustainability was ten years ago – everyone says they are doing it but they are not sure what it is.
And let’s not forget what Joel Makower, Chairman of GreenBiz said of Rapport last year in a Press Herald article:
“I THINK THIS IS A HUGE UNTAPPED OPPORTUNITY,” SAID JOEL MAKOWER, WHO HAS SPENT THE PAST 25 YEARS AS A WRITER, SPEAKER AND ENTREPRENEUR IN THE FIELD OF SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS. “THEIR TIMING COULDN’T BE BETTER.”
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