CLA winners: Partnerships are key to climate action

Some of the top 2019 Climate Leadership Award winners can trace their achievements to working in partnerships.

For global confectionery, food, and pet care company Mars, Incorporated, winner of an Organizational Leadership Award, it was an extension of a defining principle of mutuality.

“Mutuality has been part of Mars principles since 1947,” Jean-Christophe Flatin, the company’s president of science, innovation and technology, said March 22 at the conclusion of the Climate Leadership Conference. He recalled that Forrest Mars Sr., creator of the M&M, wrote an internal memo that is displayed on the walls at company headquarters to this day. “There is no enduring benefit if the benefit is not mutually shared,” Flatin quoted. “And it was in a quite visionary manner at this time, already declaring that it needed to be shared much beyond the usual stakeholders.” And so, the principle was made to encompass customers, competitors, suppliers, communities, and associates.

Flatin translated the principle to the present day, as the company is thinking of innovative business models and the economics of this principle.

The company’s sustainability achievements are a direct result. Mars improved land management practices in its agricultural supply chain, including measures to more accurately assess emissions impacts, helped to launch the Renewable Thermal Collaborative to scale up renewable heating solutions globally, and participated in the launch of a new corporate leadership platform to diagnose business climate risk throughout the supply chain.

PepsiCo, a global food and beverage company with products in more than 200 countries and territories, also leveraged its partnership capabilities to win an Organizational Leadership Award.

PepsiCo received the award for achievements that include identifying climate change as a material risk, identifying science-based targets for reductions; assessing and disclosing climate-related risks; establishing a global program to reduce energy, water, and waste; purchasing electric semi-trucks to improve efficiency; replacing vendor cooling equipment with efficient models; and implementing sustainable farming practices.

“In all of our sustainability commitments that we have, we’re continuously thinking about partnerships and collaboration,” said Noora Singh, PepsiCo’s director of sustainability. “Whether it’s our agricultural supply chain, whether it’s our third-party logistics area, whether it’s our packaging supply chain, we try to find common ground and areas of neutrality. Some companies today, thankfully have similar goals and similar ideas that they’re trying to achieve and bring to life. So finding that common ground is getting increasingly easier… and important. And so our principles, our goals and our activities always have this underlying thread of neutrality and collaboration.”

Individual Leadership Award winner Nancy Sutley, chief sustainability officer of the Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, was honored for leading LADWP to a 42 percent reduction in greenhouse gases, exceeding a 2030 California goal; initiating retrofits of the Los Angeles Aqueduct Filtration Plant for energy savings of approximately 55,000 kWh annually; and helping design the Mayor’s Sustainable City pLAn.

“Forty years ago, we were burning oil in power plants on the coast of Los Angeles. Now we’re burning natural gas, and that’s on its way out,” said Sutley. “We have goals to get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2045, and we are studying how to do that.”

Sutley said that as the nation’s largest publicly owned utility, doing the will of the public is an important ethic. “Our board meetings are open to the public, and they show up, and they’ve been showing up saying ‘what are you doing to address the climate crisis?’” she noted. “And it’s important to respond – and respond in a way that meets all the goals of the city, not just these environmental goals, but our economic and our social goals as well.”

Global environmental and engineering consulting firm CH2M, now Jacobs, received a Greenhouse Gas Management Goal Achievement Award for reducing emissions 29 percent from 2012 to 2017, exceeding a 25 percent goal; reducing vehicle idling time and fuel consumption; and constructing four LEED certified buildings at its Denver headquarters.

“To effect change, several factors have to come together,” said Doug Huxley, the firm’s climate change practice leader. “It comes down a lot to the transfer of knowledge between industries, within industries, within companies.”

Referring to a C2ES workshop on analysis of various emissions-cutting scenarios, Huxley said he sees tools to overcome pessimism that addressing climate change is not within our grasp. “We need sharing between industries, and perhaps looking at ourselves.” He continued with an appeal for companies to further integrate sustainability efforts, “For us to be able to bring that thinking into every project and to every action, there’s a lot more that can be accomplished.”

All the panelists seemed to agree that the faster companies can share information and agree to work together to reduce their emissions, the faster the world will make progress on climate action.