Dozens of questions were submitted during the post-keynote Q&A session. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough time to answer them all so we will be responding to your remaining questions via a series of blog posts.
When it comes to sustainability, issues about the environment tend to be polarizing. But no matter what industry you are in or where you stand on “global warming,” your organization will be impacted by changes that are already in motion, which include:
— Global climate change impacting supply chains by affecting (to name a few) agriculture, water supplies, ocean acid levels, and extreme weather events.
— Availability of freshwater because of the growing world population and a growing consumer demand for products.
— Scarcity of raw materials driven by growing demand and by limited supplies and reduction in supplies due to changing weather patterns or polluted soils or oceans.
With all of these changes, we still believe that companies have the ability to change the path we are on and create a sustainable planet. In Part III of this series, Greg Balestrero and Nathalie Udo respond to your questions relating to environmental sustainability, its complexities and what we can do to support it.
1. Do you have any cross-applicable examples of sustainability applied within the Biotech/Pharma arenas? – Dorothy C., United States
There are many examples in this area. BASF, Bayer, and other pharmaceutical companies are addressing these very same issues, demonstrating that such strategic change is crucial and can continue to be profitable.
In the book Organizational Survival, we highlight BASF’s Verbund principle:
“Verbund is a significant contributor to enterprise-wide innovation at BASF. There is no exact translation to English, but the German word verbund means something like “composite” or “to combine”… Verbund is a combination of practice and infrastructure. The fundamental principle is focused on intelligent linking of assets to produce value, and it covers production, technology, customers, and employees. The foundation is based on integrated knowledge management with all stakeholders, whether this means linking the R&D departments around the world or linking customer needs to new technologies.
In the case of manufacturing, Verbund is about integrating production processes, energy flows, and infrastructure. BASF has six Verbund sites around the world, which are the most sophisticated production systems in its network… The integrated systems allow BASF to reduce energy consumption with high-efficiency power plants, reduce raw material usage, and reduce cost. These sites allow the company to produce anything from basic chemicals to high-value-added-products such as coatings for the automotive and aerospace industries. More important, by-products of one production system may be used as the input or raw material for another process.”
The future challenges with Pharma and Biotech will be great. The ethical dimensions of bioengineering, genetic modification in medicine and agriculture, and the need for Pharma to protect the rainforests of the world (where its greatest source of medicine resides) are all critical issues to be addressed on an ongoing basis. They need to lead the strategic dialogue on these issues, both inside and outside their sector. As buying habits become more influenced by ethical behavior and the massive growing populations in the world demand more food, this sector will be scrutinized more critically than most industries.
2. Working in the energy sector, more specifically a coal fired power plant, we sustain by meeting strict EPA demands. We have the newest and most advanced technologies on the market to meet emissions (restrictions); sadly these systems are put on units that are 40-50 years old. Our profits and capital funds pay for these, but our generating equipment suffers…What is the best way to manage the balance? – Jason W., United States
Your comment uncovers a dilemma for most developed nations with regard to major infrastructure. Roads, bridges, energy production, schools…all are facing a need for renewal but may not be able to achieve it. There isn’t a simple answer except to consider that more attention to greenhouse gas emissions and a move away from coal is the future. All energy production is facing the facts that coal and carbon-based fuels will be under scrutiny, if not attack, over the coming years.
Shell just published a scenario that states by 2070, the last internal combustion engine will be produced and that we are in the “retirement” age for carbon based fuels. Your energy company has a choice: voluntarily begin now to build a balanced approach to energy production (methane gas, solar, wind, second generation biofuel) or be forced into it in the future through regulatory compliance.
3. How does using used versus new impact the growing economy? – Megan M., United States
Very interesting question. The “circular” economy is about a closed circle of use. It means that we should consider a product life cycle that continues on, perhaps, in another form. The issue of “used” instead of “new” can be considered in this context.
Take Patagonia for example. They have started an extensive campaign to encourage customers to think through the decision to buy a new jacket when the performance of the old one is still useful. In other words, don’t discard it if it is still useful. However, in product decision, you have to consider standards, safety performance, and public safety. Can you “reuse” materials or products if they still conform to the safety and quality and performance standards, and may very well provide a life cycle equivalent to a new one? In that case, you may use it, but it is still an issue of company policy.
From a personal product point of view, I always ask, “Does this new product give me measurable improvement in performance, which are necessary in my personal life?” Or am I driven by style, the pressure of having the “latest”, or some other factor which is not affected by performance?
4. For the electronic minerals noted at the start of the session, do you have suggestions for where to recycle electronics while knowing people in developing countries aren’t exposed to harmful materials, e.g., mercury? – Lois P., United States
Yes. Most manufacturers today have recycling plans. Apple, for example, will recycle their own products, and will most commonly reintroduce them as “replacement” units. Large electronics store aggregators, such as Best Buy in the USA, also provide recycling programs. However, it is incumbent on you to determine what the recycling program is like. Do they maintain public safety and integrity when recycling harmful materials such as mercury? You can usually find this out by visiting the company website. You should ask specifically about battery recycling as well.
5. The issue of “blood minerals” in the supply chain is relatively new for my small business. Can you recommend resources, links, etc. for addressing this issue and verifying that we do not have any such minerals in our supply chain? – Greg W., United States
Yes. Go to the Resource Library section of this site. There are many links which will benefit your understanding about this terrible issue. Also, if there is a trade association for your product or industry sector, check their website to see what your competitors are doing.
6. I’m all for environmental changes, but I’m not sure how a software company of 30 people can reduce their footprint. We can renew computer to reduce energy consumption, monitor water usage for dishes, monitor AC, etc. But I see these as small changes. Are there any bigger impacting behaviors we can change? – Mathieu R., Canada
Yes, there are many things you can do. It is not only the issue of what you, as one company, can do inside your “building.” It is how it affects every supplier and how it affects every customer. Consider how you can help your suppliers and your customers embrace critical issues on sustainability, such as water reduction, energy reduction, etc.
If your software resides in the “cloud,” you should fully understand how the cloud provider is embracing sustainability: Where are the server farms located? How is energy provided to power the servers? Are the employee policies of the company fair and equitable? Just because it is in “the cloud” doesn’t eliminate your responsibility to abdicate responsibility.
30 people is a virtual army, with access to government representatives, social media, and the ability to volunteer. Most likely they are waiting to be enabled and empowered by the company. Don’t wait; act now.
Watch a snippet of Greg and Nathalie’s IPM Day keynote: