By David Calloway, Green IT Digest © 2010
What do Boeing, Campbell’s Soup and Dow Chemical (formerly Rohm and Haas) have in common? That is, besides being large companies and longstanding, major forces in this regon’s economy?
All three are internationally recognized leaders in sustainability. Yes, really. And no, I'm not kidding. Representatives of these firms and others shared some success stories at a recent conference co-sponsored by Drexel University’s Lebow College of Business and the World Trade Center of Greater Philadelphia (WTCGP). The program also featured speakers from sustainability guarantors B Lab and the City’s Office of Sustainability.
The Triple Bottom Line represents the three beneficiaries of a sustainable enterprise: People, Planet, and Profit. Applying well-known and accepted metrics, it provides a way to measure an organization’s environmental impact along with its financial return. And, as we know in all areas of business, what we can measure, we can improve.
This program, subtitled Implementing Sustainable Business Practices, bridged several purposes for its sponsors. Drexel hosted the program on behalf of the MBA students visiting from the school’s graduate center in Sacramento, CA.
The WTCGP was promoting the region’s strengths in sustainability, while increasing exposure to international opportunities for both students and the region’s businesses. This seminar was part of WTCGP’s new “Job Creation through Export Development” program funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The program is designed to advance the global competitiveness of the many Pennsylvania and New Jersey companies in leading industry sectors, such as renewable energy and environment. Find the WTCGP at http://www.wtcphila.org/.
Drexel’s Sacramento business students, in Philadelphia to complete a course in Sustainable Business, learned about local Green buildings and businesses. They visited two Green buildings, the Comcast Center and Tasty Baking’s new Navy Yard bakery, which is moving toward zero-waste status.
“It was eye-opening for the students”, said Donna Ferrari, Drexel’s Director of Special Projects. “Many came with the impression that companies are just giving lip service to sustainability. But the conference speakers told how addressing sustainability issues head-on will help them survive.” Drexel's LeBow College of Business is at http://www.lebow.drexel.edu/.
The WTCGP used the forum to showcase Campbell’s, Boeing, and Dow. These firms are central to the region’s economy, working to create a triple bottom line, and fully engaged internationally. These three attributes, all visible and measurable, make them models that more companies in the region could emulate, with the help of the WTCGP, of course.
An ongoing partnership in international business allows Drexel students to combine their international residencies with the WTCGP’s trade missions through their “Export for Scholars” program. Students research off-shore markets, international partnerships, and overcoming cultural and other barriers. Observing international trade meetings gives them valuable hands-on experience.
The conference included a Green Expo where vendors presented a range of products and services to help businesses and consumers to be more effective in terms of the environment, and of their bottom lines.
The word of the day was metrics: If you don’t measure it, you won’t do it. Every presentation was dotted with dashboards, flooded with figures, and replete with reports about carbon reduced, good intentions realized, and strategies implemented. It’s clear that, at least in these companies, the drive toward sustainability is for real, and it’s working.
The speakers shared their firms’ strategies and experiences, as they’ve worked to improve the environmental performance of themselves, and their impact, and that of their partners, customers, and industries. The speakers and their talks are summarized in the following paragraphs.
- Katherine Gajewski, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. After getting a late start, Philadelphia is working to advance the 5 E’s: Energy, Environment, Equity (as in equality, not capital, although that was mentioned, too), Economy, and Engagement. Despite ongoing financial challenges, Philadelphia and several other progressive cities across the nation are succeeding in areas where the federal and many state governments are being hamstrung by lobbyists and legislative paralysis. For more on the city’s progress, visit http://www.greenworksphila.org/.
- David P. Stangis, Vice President, Corporate Social Responsibility, Campbell Soup Company. If there’s any company in a position to influence the health and landfills of the world, it’s the ubiquitous Campbell Soup. A big company full of everyday products, Campbell’s program focuses on everyday actions that add up to fulfilling the big vision, a full-court commitment to Nourishment, naturally: Nourishing Employees, Consumers, Neighbors, and Planet. The program is described in detail at www.campbellsoupcompany.com/csr/.
- Katherine T. Hunt, Ph.D., Director, External Science and Technology, The Dow Chemical Company. After Dr. Hunt’s explained Dow’s purchase of Philadelphia’s Rohm and Haas, it makes more sense to me. Dow’s been a feedstock-driven business, and wants to be more market-driven. Research leader Rohm and Haas makes more money producing less stuff, which also makes sense environmentally. Dow wants to be more like that. So buying R&H is helping Dow become both more profitable, and more sustainable. That’s a real win-win outcome. Find the chemistry at www.dow.com/commitments/.
- Hardik Savalia, Associate, B Lab. For a publicly-held corporation to officially pursue the Triple Bottom Line—People, Planet, Profit—is currently illegal, except in Maryland or Vermont.
That’s right. The fiduciary responsibility of a firm to maximize profit is the only leg of this three-legged stool that has any legal standing in the other 48 states. B Lab, based in Berwyn, PA, is working to change that, by creating a new kind of legal entity: the B Corporation. B stands for Benefit, because it benefits not just shareholders, but stakeholders—the whole environment in which the corporation operates. Today, B Lab certifies mostly small, privately-held firms. As the B Corp takes hold in a growing number of states, investor demand will drive ever larger enterprises to seek and earn B Corp status. Learn all about it at www.bcorporation.net/.
- Edward (Ned) Ferguson, Director of Environment and Energy, Boeing. Did you know the GPS you use to reach your destination is not officially available to a commercial pilot? GPS-based air space modernization will reduce fuel consumed in flights up to 30%. It will also make flying faster, safer, and more reliable, as well as save flight controllers a lot of grey hairs. While today’s jets are 70% more fuel-efficient (and 30% quieter) than the original 707, airplane makers still have a long way to go to reduce aviation’s impact on global warming, and to save the airlines from continuing financial losses. To address both, Boeing is committing 75% of their R&D budget to improving the environmental performance of their jets. In addition to making planes that use less fuel, Boeing is working to grow fuels that create less carbon. Grow fuels? Yes, they’re creating bio-fuels using non-food sources to reduce the petroleum in their fuel, and thus the carbon in their exhaust. These fuels will come on-line in two to three years, and be used until more effective, algae-based fuels become available in six to eight years. These will make huge reductions in both carbon, and fuel cost. Reducing the amount of fuel consumed, and largely eliminating petroleum as a fuel, will make the airlines more environmentally and financially sustainable. Find more at www.boeing.com/newairplane/environment.