The salient points of Day 1 were reiterated and expanded upon in the second day of the Sustainable Supply Chain Summit, with the importance of strong leadership emphasised
Simon Brown, Managing Director Europe at CarbonNeutral, provided a seamless segue into the proceedings for the second day at the Sustainable Supply Chain Summit with an analogy: he urged the audience to consider the supply chain and the pattern of impact as resembling a butterfly. With brands and manufacturers representing the body, the left wing signifies the supply base - broadening as it gets deeper and providing opportunities for the building of trust and relationships. The right represents movement towards the consumers and the life of the product, and the impact it has post-production and sale.
“In essence, the direct impact of any business is a fraction of its impact up and downstream.” A fantastic sentiment to begin the day, I thought.
The first session of the morning began with a deep dive into an extraordinary example of how to make your goals reality, even in daunting situations. Melissa Logan, Senior Vice President of Chemonics teamed up with Jose Igancio Noguera, VP Corporate Affairs of Gran Colombia Gold, to demonstrate the fascinating initiatives being undertaken by the Toronto-based extractives company in legitimising the work of thousands of illegal miners in Colombia.
In equal parts fascinating and distressing, problems being addressed include - but are not limited to -irrational use of natural resources, the presence of 195 illegal mines in Segovia alone, poor working and safety conditions, non-payment of taxes and royalties, and child labour and prostitution.
They’re now working with Chemonics – the entirely employee owned and based in Washington, US - to establish and enact a plan to formalise 10,000 small miners within the Gran Colombia Gold titles, to eradicate poor labour practices, and to ensure compliance with environmental standards.
This is an extreme example, but sadly not as uncommon as you may hope to believe. It is inspiring to see this work being done however, and serves to reiterate well the vital importance of collaboration, particularly cross-sector.
The second session of the morning dissected customer and consumer engagement initiatives. Chaired exceptionally by Christine Diamente of Arcelor Mittal, the discussion took an intriguing format: Olam International, Amcor and Turk Telekom presented their respective supply chain cases briefly to the audience, who were then tasked with voting for who got to present first.
The crowd opted for Olam International in an extremely close-run contest, and so Briony Mathieson proceeded.
Each of the presenters demonstrated the excellent work they’re undertaking in communicating with their most important stakeholders; Olam in communicating sustainable messages to their farmers, Turk Telekom in ensuring a greater quality of life for their disabled consumers through technological and educational advancements, and Amcor in rethinking what it means to be a member of the supply chain, and helping customers to improve their recycling capabilities.
Christine pointed out afterwards that the one commonality throughout the presentations were communities, and questions from the room touched upon the importance of working closely with NGOs, the limitations and future of certification, and the practicalities of recycling. This session in particular portrayed the wider theme of cross-sector inclusion at the conference as a whole.
Ethical Corporation’s own Liam Dowd moderated the third session of the day following a short tea break. He was joined by Rainer Veith of E.ON, Andrea Charlson of HS2, and Nitesh Magdani of BAM Construct UK to discuss practical applications and benefits of a circular approach.
Insight provided by Nitesh was particularly enlightening. The Direct of Sustainability provided a brief overview of what the circular economy is: “essentially what we want to do is to change from a linear process and economy into a circular economy wherein materials are kept at higher values for longer.”
He then went on to discuss the progressive attitudes regarding the subject of a circular economy in the Netherlands, in comparison to a rather lax UK, and the difficulties inherent to being circular in construction given the complexities and scale of a typical project.
In one project in the Netherlands, BAM Construct asked Phillips to produce more sustainable lighting, they requested the supplier of their timber beams to cut them slightly larger than specified to ensure greater longevity, and ensured the enhanced effect of natural lighting in the design; all great examples of how engaging with the supply chain offers enhanced product performance over a longer period of time, even when considering something as multifaceted as a structure.
The subject of challenging the market to be futureproof was also raised: “We know that technology will advance over the coming years, so allowing for improvement upgrades allows for the building’s performance to actually improve over time; an excellent prospect for any client.”
Additionally, providing clients with ownership of the materials means that they receive the asset value on their books, and thus have the ability and incentive to retain, maintain and reuse the materials.
The session then broke out into table-based discussions wherein questions that Ethical Corporation had garnered beforehand were discussed, so that the speakers could then navigate about the room, listen in on discussions, provide advice, and then head back to the stage to share what they’d heard and learned.
It was difficult to get the room to settle down following this break-out session, with a great buzz going around. Once some peace was reached though, the audience learned how discussions had centred on governmental incentive (or lack thereof), the role of NGOs in instigating change, reaching consumers, and reputational risk in not performing sustainably.
All three speakers emphasised the importance of efficient and integrated action from the very beginning of the design process to ensure maximum success. Moreover, the redesigning of existing structures, products and systems was resoundingly cited as being particularly important – as well as an exciting opportunity – to ensure the sustainability of future projects.
The first session post-lunch – chaired again by Christine Diamente – was entitled “Create shared value – how to generate change beyond your own supply chain.” Joining her on stage was Atlanta McIlwraith from Timberland, Shaun McArthy OBE from the Supply Chain Sustainability School, Colin Braidwood, Head of Sustainability at Interserve and John Edelman from Edelman.
The session provided a series of fascinating examples of industry collaboration that have fostered wider industry change. Timberland’s partnership with Omni tyres, the Supply Chain Sustainability School’s work with a number of high-profile construction firms, Interserve’s work with SMEs throughout their supply chain, and Edelman’s collaborative efforts to bring about industry standards in the professional services sector were all covered, with questions from the audience adding an extra dimension to proceedings.
A strong emphasis was placed on mentoring members of the supply chain and establishing baseline performance requirements by all members of the panel. Furthermore, the question of the enforceability and practicality of industry-wide (and particularly global) standards was raised.
Christine wrapped the session up wonderfully: “Whether you call it shared value, social value, the circular economy, or simply smart business sense, the bottom line is ‘Dream Big’.
This year’s conference was rounded off nicely with a second pair of round table sessions, allowing attendees to drill down into a topic that has a high impact on their value chains. One session was on the subject of sustainable cocoa and hosted by Taco Terheijden, Director of Cargill, and the second was on sustainable cotton, hosted by Alison Ward, CEO of CottonConnect.
Attendees agreed that ending the day in this way was a great idea: it allows for that added level of conversation and engagement, and invigorates the minds that have been (hopefully) inundated with strategic insight and advice over the course of the two days.
The salient points from the first day certainly weren’t abandoned going into the second (collaborate, innovate, engage) and neither was the impressively international aspect (with initiatives in Colombia, Netherlands, and Turkey presented).
But prominent throughout this second bundle of sessions was a sense that strong leadership is to become increasingly important, especially when faced with adversity at any (and perhaps every) level. After all, if sweeping changes can be planned and implemented in Colombia – where disparate and unsafe business practices are all but entrenched in the working culture – why not every else?
If you’re interested in receiving visual and audio recordings of the proceedings from the course of the two days, please get in touch with Elina Yumasheva: Elina.firstname.lastname@example.org
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