Published on: Apr 07, 2010
Two burning corporate responsibility issues came under scrutiny at a recent roundtable event hosted by Two Tomorrows and i2a Consulting in London.
Senior managers from a range of top UK and international companies got together to explore two key questions relevant to all those interested in improving corporate sustainability:
- Will water eclipse carbon and become the big sustainability issue of the next decade?
- What will distinguish the leaders in corporate sustainability from the rest?
The event aimed to help participants develop their approaches to managing corporate responsibility in the next decade.
Roundtable participants divided themselves into two groups, each looking at one of the two topics. They then reported their findings to their fellow attendees.
Two Tomorrows consultant and event co-organiser Alex Nichols reports:
“Chatham House Rules prevent us from giving details on their water strategies and whether they are ‘match ready’. Suffice to say that participants were honest and their conclusions modest. Interestingly, most underestimated the amount of water used to manufacture day-to-day products such as a T-shirt or hamburger.
“In many ways, roundtable participants are representative of most large companies on this issue. And the new Tomorrows Value Rating of large companies’ corporate responsibility performance underscores this in that it shows that water is recognised by companies as an issue, but management arrangements are not yet fully developed to deal with the risks and opportunities.
“Falling just after World Water Day, the roundtable captured well how water could eclipse carbon as the key issue of the new decade. Our delegates closed by noting that further discussion is needed on subjects such as the geopolitics and corporate risks of water mining, water efficiency technology investment, best practice partnerships in water-stressed countries, aquifer re-charge and water quality.
Distinctive CR strategies
“In the second group discussion, delegates showed compelling enthusiasm for ‘authentic leadership’ – building sustainability risk and opportunity into the heart of the business.
“Embedding values, ensuring that sustainability applies to the surrounding socio-economic and environmental contexts (not just the companies), true engagement and effective reporting were all discussed.
“As companies move into the new decade, it will be how they behave, not what they say that differentiates them, particularly as corporate responsibility values blend into product branding messages and personal communications and social media evolve. Crucial to this ‘show me’ approach will be engagement – and our roundtablers observed that corporate engagement really needs to be up to scratch, and not afraid to tackle the ‘big integrity’ issues: that ‘good’ for the corporation must equal ‘good’ for humanity. The outcomes – enhanced trust and reputation ‘capital’ – become hard-won and easily lost; and so robust management using well-briefed teams will be crucial to managing sustainability issues over the next few years. The ‘tens’ could see the death of spin and a new crucible of trust.”
Feedback from participants
- “Very informal and ‘warm’ discussion – people not scared to talk!”
- “Increased my knowledge on water.”
- “Excellent presentations (leadership was particularly strong).”
- “Good people to share ideas.”
- “Inspiring input on water and other trends.”
Our roundtable events and workshops held worldwide are a chance for CR managers and others to learn from each other and Two Tomorrows experts in confidential and creative settings. They are free to attend.
We welcome suggestions for future roundtable topics. You can e-mail suggestions to email@example.com.