Corporate sustainability is undergoing a fundamental shift; for an indication of just how far it has come, look no further than SAP. The enterprise software giant has added environmental metricsto many of its core offerings, allowing information about environmental impacts to be seamlessly incorporated into everything from executive management to operations. It indicates that sustainability is starting to be internalized by at least some of SAP’s customers, which include many of the largest companies in the world.
The size, scope and sophistication of corporate environmental data has exploded in recent years, as recognition of potential savings through efficiency along with the pressure for disclosure have intensified the need for large companies to understand more about their operations. This will only increase as “smart” technologies become more prevalent and everyday objects create their own piles of data. The challenge is managing and drawing meaning from billions of data streams in order to understand it, apply it and make more informed decisions with it.
Within the U.S. military, there is no debate about the risks, threats, and challenges of climate change and energy dependency as they relate to our national security.1 Climate change and energy efficiency have become standing military planning considerations, as both will affect the twenty-first-century strategic landscape and operational environment to such a degree that to ignore them would be a gross dereliction of duty and an abrogation of responsibility.2
"The single greatest way to change the world is overcoming cynicism." This was the challenge laid down by Lord Michael Hastings in the opening keynote of the 2011 Net Impact conference and it caught me unawares. Is cynicism really the biggest barrier to solving global issues? Is our distrust of others’ apparent motives stopping each of us from taking action? Throughout the conference, CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders shared lessons they’ve learned from business and life experiences that can help us overcome cynicism and drive purposeful change: "The single greatest way to change the world is overcoming cynicism."
This was the challenge laid down by Lord Michael Hastings in the opening keynote of the 2011 Net Impact conference and it caught me unawares.
Is cynicism really the biggest barrier to solving global issues? Is our distrust of others’ apparent motives stopping each of us from taking action?
Throughout the conference, CEOs, entrepreneurs and thought leaders shared lessons they’ve learned from business and life experiences that can help us overcome cynicism and drive purposeful change:
1. “Be who you say you are" A succinct but valuable branding lesson from Tom Kelley at Nike. He went on to introduce the Nike Better World campaign, (check out the slick HTML 5 website if you haven’t already) which aims to educate and inspire young people on sustainability and showcase the best of Nike’s sustainability initiatives. Importantly, it focuses on what Nike is: it is about sport, it is about performance, it doesn’t take itself seriously and it is very, very cool.
2. “Talk to people like they are people” A tip from the Craig behind Craigslist. In a world of social media, the way organizations communicate with consumers has to change. We no longer live in the Mad Men world of one-way communication. Conversations are multidirectional and anyone can join in. Craig’s advice to all of us using social media to engage consumers: (1) it is about sharing the message not controlling it, (2) recognize you are relying on others to transmit your message and they will transmit their version of your message and (3) dive in and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
3. “Align your own values with how you spend your time” In an energizing keynote, Jen Boulden, a co-founder of Ideal Bites, spoke of how nothing felt better than building a business that aligned with her own values. Ideal Bites, before it sold to The Walt Disney Company, was an email newsletter service that sent subscribers one ‘light green’ eco-tip a day. The target audience was people like the co-founders themselves, individuals who might drive an SUV to Whole Foods but still want to take small actions and be part of a movement. The newsletter that is billed as “a sassier shade of green,” also happens to be an apt description of Jen Boulden.
4. “Measure yourself by the potential” Hannah Jones, VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation at Nike, described Nike’s journey in her closing keynote. She suggested that Nike’s status in the 1990s as the “the poster child for supply chain mismanagement” may have been a blessing in disguise because it set them on a path to become a pioneer in sustainability. Hannah attributed some of this vision to their CEO Mark Parker, who continually reminds the team, "Don't measure yourself by the competition – measure yourself by the potential.” Her parting advice to the 2,600 students and professionals on moving this global economy out of industrial age and into a sustainable economy: (1) reframe the story to focus on the opportunity, (2) obsess innovation and (3) scale by doing one thing gloriously.