Uwe Bergmann, Director of Sustainability Management at Henkel (Germany) summarised the challenge of sustainable development as reducing our environmental footprint while improving the quality of life to allow 9 billion people to live well and within the limits of the planet by 2050. Four major trends have to develop to make this possible:
- Growth must be decoupled from resource consumption. For instance China hopes to reduce carbon emissions by 40% per RMB by 2020.
- Consumers must increasingly use social media to make their concerns known. (1.13 million now follow Greenpeace on Twitter.)
- Regulations and de-facto standards must be tightened. Walmart’s Sustainability Consortium has engaged 5000 suppliers has tackled 300 product categories to reduce their impacts.
- >50% of consumers are aware of the challenge but currently unwilling to change habits.
In 2013, the United Nations surveyed a 1000 CEO’s around the world and found that 32% believed the economy was on track to meet the demands of population growth. 33% felt that business as a whole was doing enough to address the challenge, but 83% feel that further progress will only come from more regulations. They felt there would be a plateau beyond which a radical change in market structure driven by a common understanding of global priorities will be needed. Innovation of new technologies, collaboration between industries and close cooperation with stakeholders will be needed to move above the plateau.
In short, we have to achieve more with less. By 2030 we need to triple the value we create from the current footprint of our operations, products and services. This could be achieved by combining long- and short-term targets where annual improvements of 5-6% would add up to achieving the long-term goals.
Henkel were targeting, over the next 5 years:
- More value for customers: 10% more sales are needed from each production unit.
- Safer workplaces: 20% reduction in accidents per million hours worked.
- Reducing water usage by 15%.
- Reducing waste by 15%.
- Reducing energy consumption by 15%.
Examples of Henkel innovation included the development of low-temperature hot-melt adhesive based on 50% renewable materials to reduce the energy required in diaper production.