Climate change is too big a challenge for any one person or company to solve alone. With the future of our planet hanging in the balance, meeting climate goals depends on increased collaboration within companies, across sectors and within the communities those companies operate in.
This was a sentiment echoed by sustainability leaders throughout the recent GreenBiz event, which took place February 14-16, 2023, in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Read on for a recap of some of the ideas discussed at the event.
Working Together for the Good of the Planet
Greater collaboration within companies is essential for sustainability strategy success, and employees at every level are often eager to get involved. During a panel session discussing the role of partnerships and collective action in combatting climate change, Elisabeth Brinton, corporate vice president of sustainability for Microsoft, described how crowdsourcing ideas and collaborating within the company allowed Microsoft to build a “commercial ecosystem” that they then used to help customers meet sustainability objectives.
Additionally, Vien Truong, Nike’s senior director of engagement and global sustainability, talked about how Nike brought in leaders from different backgrounds to discuss sustainability topics with their employee resource groups as a way to involve employees who are interested in sustainability but aren’t sure how to engage.
Truong also talked about how companies should make sure that they’re thinking about underserved communities and those that have been impacted the most by climate change. She discussed how Nike is building greater inclusivity and resiliency within the communities where their employees live through their Community Climate Resilience program, adding that “if there’s no planet, there’s no sport” for kids to enjoy.
At the end of the panel session, Michael Kobori, Starbucks’ vice president and chief sustainability officer, emphasized the need for less talk and more action. Truong said that patience is key and that companies need to be committed to sustainability for the long haul. Brinton urged the need to be resilient and passionate in order to drive change.
Collaborating with Startups to Solve Climate Challenges
In a panel discussion covering the role startups can have in helping companies achieve greater sustainability in their supply chains and overall operations, the session’s speakers echoed the previous panelists’ view that greater collaboration can help solve climate challenges. For example, some companies have launched startup accelerators or incubators to achieve progress in their sustainable initiatives.
Panelist Nuha Siddiqui, CEO and co-founder of erthos, a plant-based plastics startup, shared that when companies work with startups in their early stages, they can help guide these new businesses toward the solutions that are needed to meet climate goals.
“When we worked with corporates at those very early stages, we were able to learn so much about what we actually needed to build,” she said. “We took a lot of those learnings early on to help us define our go-to-market, define what we thought of our business model and our actual materials themselves.”
She added that one of the greatest assets a startup like erthos can bring is the ability to pivot to meet the needs of the industry, as well as partners. Chante Harris, ClimateTech strategist for Schmidt Futures and the panel moderator, added that startups utilizing customer discovery can help them find larger problems within the ecosystem that can be solved.
The panelists shared some best practices for effectively engaging with startups. Santiago Espinosa de los Monteros Harispuru, the CEO and co-founder of Toroto, a startup that focuses on nature-based solutions to the climate crisis, said that companies should work to build strong relationships with startups that can help companies meet their goals.
Siddiqui expressed the need to make investments in startups to fight climate change, saying that “the climate crisis requires all of us to be in that wartime mindset where we’re taking some really big, bold moves.”
Achieving Greater Sustainability Through Partnerships
Sustainability success comes from finding or creating a coalition of passionate and eager people who will push the envelope and fight to advance sustainability goals. Whether those individuals are working within a company or come on board through strategic partnerships, the need for alliances that foster greater sustainability has never been greater. By collaborating internally and externally, companies can achieve great things for their stakeholders and for our planet.