Posted By David Brousell, November 10, 2010 at 3:15 PM, in Category: Sustainability
The green movement has been on the march for many years now. So how are we doing? Like many things, it depends upon whom you ask.
To hear John Gagel tell it, the (sustainability movement) has crossed an important threshold. The manager of sustainable practices at Lexmark believes that green has now reached a critical mass. Speaking last week at a panel discussion on sustainability put together by SAP, which offers software to automate and manage business processes associated with sustainability, Gagel said Lexmark has been working with partners to find ways to innovate in everything from the language of sustainability to taking costs out of the supply chain.
“We’re translating the language of sustainability to the language of business,” he said.
But, curiously, when it comes to setting its sustainability goals, Lexmark doesn’t benchmark against other, like companies. Rather, “we look at our own products and set tough goals,” he said.
Another panelist, Dr. Jay Golden, director of corporate sustainability at the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University and co-founder of the Sustainability Consortium, said one of the challenges in sustainability is that big companies such as Wal-Mart and Target report on their green initiatives differently. “What are the scientific rules of the road?” he asked.”We need to understand the science.”
Golden’s observation was supported by Kevin Myette, director of product integrity at Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a maker and retailer of outdoor gear. “The challenge in supply chains is that we don’t have confidence in the science in all areas,” Myette said.
Dr. Peter Graf, an executive vice president at SAP and the company’s chief sustainability officer, used a car analogy to suggest where the movement needs to head. “When you buy a car, you know what MPG means,” he said. Graf also stressed that perceptions of whether a company is well managed are increasingly being linked to its (sustainability efforts).
“More investors are asking the question ‘Do you have risk under control?’ ” Graf said. And many retailers, Gagel noted, are incorporating sustainability requirements into RFQs.
For Myette of REI, sustainability is tantamount to what he called the next quality movement.
I left the panel last Tuesday with the distinct impression that a lot of smart people are working on sustainability but that the “science,” as Dr. Golden pointed out, still has a ways to go.
Written by David Brousell
Global Vice President, General Manager and Editorial Director of the Manufacturing Leadership Council