As 2016 comes to a close, we would like to look back at the most notable events that EcoVadis had the privilege of taking part in this year throughout the US, and summarize key topics, standout speakers, and other notes of interest from the year. From California to Connecticut, and Novi to New Orleans, EcoVadis was on the ground contributing to the advancement of sustainable procurement and CSR/sustainability practices in global supply chains during our most active year on record in the US. We are grateful for all the friends, colleagues, peers, and partners that we met along the way, and we are eager to reconnect and break new ground in 2017. So without further ado, let’s look back at 2016…
Skytop Strategies: Sustainability & Risk 2016 (Washington, D.C.)
Skytop Strategies’ Sustainability & Risk 2016 focused on ESG factors altering operational & investment landscapes, and best practices from sustainability pioneers using risk management platforms for ESG. Notable points of discussion related to the legal and financial risks related to external CSR communications (too much can be just as risky as too little), as well as SASB’s role in developing industry guidance on materiality.
Ethical Sourcing Forum (New York, NY)
The keynote address at the Ethical Sourcing Forum featured Professor Michael Toffel of Harvard Business School, who, along with doctoral student Yanhua Zhou, showcased their latest statistical research on code compliance, this time focusing on factories in China based on Intertek’s Workplace Conditions Assessment (WCA) data. One interesting finding from their research uncovered a correlation between identification of nonconformities, the number of auditors and auditor gender. Presentations on successes achieved improving labor conditions in China were subsequently followed by the challenges of doing business in the very new – and inherently risky – labor market of Myanmar.
AIAG Corporate Responsibility Summit (Novi, MI)
The AIAG Corporate Responsibility Summit focused on sustainable procurement challenges and best practices in the automotive sector. A notable session was jointly hosted by BSR and Dow Chemical, discussing the circular economy and its potential, as well as its complexity. The big news during this conference was the announcement that Ford would be joining the Electronics Industry Citizenship Coalition (EICC).
GEMI Spring Meeting – Science-Based Targets (Washington, D.C.)
Hosted at the George Washington University, the GEMI Spring Meeting brought together corporate sustainability leaders to discuss business action around ‘science-based targets.’ The meeting examined why and how companies are deciding to pursue science-based targets for GHG reduction, and explored strategies and tools for businesses to drive action across the value chain. Notable presentations included GWU Professor Rachael Jonassen on science-based targets and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on new business models.
BBB Forum on Corporate Responsibility (New York, NY)
The BBB Forum on Corporate Responsibility featured Lori Michelin of Colgate-Palmolive and other thought leaders highlighting the latest CR trends, news and insights. We were pleased to learn about Climate Connections, a daily podcast series that takes a solutions-based approach to climate change and its impacts, during this forum.
2016 US BCSD-WBCSD-Yale University: Pathways to Impact (New Haven, CT)
Hosted at Yale University, the USBCSD–WBCSD–Yale Pathways to Impact conference took a deep dive on some drivers that contributed to 2016’s momentum – circular economy, climate action, climate risk & adaptation, systemic transparency & reporting – and looked at how these big ideas are being put into action and brought to scale. Sustainable investment was a key topic, and BrownFlynn (the first US-based partner in the EcoVadis Official Consulting & Training Program) looked at the ESG ratings landscape and the implication for procurement departments.
Skytop Strategies: Reframing Labor, Human Rights & Sustained Company Performance (Annandale-on-Hudson, NY)
Hosted at Bard College, this conference focused on topics ranging from investments in supply chain, regulations, reputation impacts, and maximizing the use of new technologies. The conversation returned regularly to a key hurdle: Why is labor and human rights reporting less mature, and seemingly more difficult, to integrate into business operations?
United Nations Global Compact Leaders Summit 2016 (New York, NY)
The UN Global Compact Leaders Summit brought together business and sustainability leaders to jump-start action on the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), seeking to turn global goals into local business and support leaders to identify opportunities for progress. In advance of the summit, a pre-conference workshop on supply chain sustainability brought together Global Compact LEAD companies and other members to define and bring urgency to sustainable procurement, and to discuss how they can motivate and mobilize their companies to address this next frontier in CSR progress. After presentations on the Age of Digitization (EcoVadis), Legislation as a New Driver (Baker & McKenzie), and Traceability & Innovation of Product Sourcing (Beraca), the workshop discussion revealed a clear awareness by CSR leaders that their challenge is to take ownership of all CSR-related business practices, engage procurement and supply chain teams, and seek the tools and processes to do so quickly and efficiently (for both the companies and their suppliers). The UNGC staff brought the feedback from this workshop into the main leadership summit.
ProcureCon: Indirect West (Phoenix, AZ)
EcoVadis was joined by client Nestlé at this year’s ProcureCon Indirect West conference (WBR). Andy Murray, Head of Technical Procurement at Nestlé, presented on the drivers of sustainable procurement/responsible sourcing and the challenges faced in the supply chain. This was followed by a roundtable discussion on “How CSR/Sustainability Will Impact Procurement’s Role In The Coming Five Years.”
EUISSCA Alliance Sustainable Sourcing Conference 2016 (New Orleans, LA)
The EUISSCA’s Sustainable Sourcing Conference brought together utility supply chain leaders committed to finding solutions to sustainability challenges. EcoVadis was particularly impressed by the progress from utility sector suppliers and other providers in the industry. One such supplier was iReuse, who has achieved significant ROI from their sustainable procurement initiative with PG&E. The most thought-provoking take on sustainability reporting was Eaton Corporation’s standout presentation about “handprints vs footprints” and the need for a “net positive”approach to sustainability.
EFMA Supply Chain Risks & Rewards in Emerging Markets (Washington, D.C.)
The EFMA‘s conference addressed the challenging subject of managing supply chain risks while obtaining the rewards of outsourcing from emerging markets. How do companies remain competitive in fast changing markets that put pressure to seek out low cost quality suppliers and products? A presentation from AON and Zurich shed light on supply chain risk insurance and highlighted the extent of proof necessary to demonstrate due diligence to insurers. The conversation then turned to what is not insurable in the supply chain (e.g. criminal activity) and the need for sophisticated due diligence systems. As Larry Kivett of Deloitte so eloquently phrased it, “due diligence is not a snapshot – suppliers checking boxes on surveys doesn’t help truly mitigate risk.”
Innovation Forum: Modern Slavery and Forced Labor Forum (Washington, D.C.)
Innovation Forum’s one-day conference provided a focused discussion on how business can tackle modern day slavery, forced labor, and human trafficking. Business delegates received guidance on proactively mitigating risks of modern slavery in the supply chain and learned about effective responses to discovered cases of slavery. During the conference, Coca-Cola issued a strong call to action against paid recruitment practices (highly prevalent in south and southeast Asia) and CH2M discussed the FIFA human rights scandal in Qatar, giving first-hand proof that Tier 2 service suppliers are not immune to negative publicity and front page coverage around human rights.
BSR Conference 2016 (New York, NY)
The BSR Conference remains one of the most important global gatherings on sustainable business. BE BOLD, the theme of this year’s conference, reinforced the importance of collaboration and innovation from all sectors to address immense challenges – climate change, transparency, inclusive economics, CSR/sustainability leadership – that lie ahead. With CSR leaders from around the world, there was no shortage of interesting tracks. A few of the many highlights included Katja Iversen’s impassioned pitch for gender-equality, a panel including Todd Stern discussing The Pentagon and the Intelligence Community’s views on climate change (it’s the single “greatest risk to global stability”), and a roof-rattling performance from Baba Brinkman, the climate change advocate and “peer-reviewed rapper.”
EICC Responsible Electronics 2016 (San Jose, CA)
Responsible Electronics, the EICC’s biggest event of the year, is focused on CSR in the global electronics supply chain, and included top speakers from industry, civil society, and government. The conference kicked off with a powerful keynote by Lisa Jackson, VP of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple. Meeting sessions included Trends in Global Supply Chain Governance, Taking the Industry Beyond Audits, How Technology Impacts Supply Chain Solutions, The Changing Public Procurement Environment, and The Future of Chemical Management. The US Presidential Election took place during the conference which left a number of D.C. policy experts literally speechless, and the general outlook for government policy supporting responsible business was an inevitable topic of discussion. It was clear that the big consumer-facing companies would continue to drive the sustainability agenda, though the concern among attendees was less focused on the leaders, and more on the laggards (for whom legislation is typically targeted).
GEMI Meeting – Supply Chain Sustainability (Louisville, KY)
GEMI brought together key industry groups and corporate supply chain sustainability leaders to share information on industry approaches to supply chain sustainability harmonization, and identify potential opportunities to promote harmonization across efforts. Without a doubt the most unique setting of the year, the meeting took place aboard the Living Lands & Waters floating classroom barge in Louisville, KY, and kicked off after attendees spent an afternoon cleaning up trash from the Ohio River. The discussion focused on harmonization of supplier surveys and dived deep into initiatives in the pharmaceutical, plastics, aerospace, cargo, and other industry sectors. After robust analysis from GEMI, it was apparent that what companies are really looking for is harmonization of actionable results, which cannot simply be achieved by minimizing supplier inputs to the lowest common denominator. In keeping with the theme of adhering to established standards, the latest updates on the development of ISO/DIS 20400 were also presented and discussed.
SASB 2016 Symposium (New York, NY)
SASB’s inaugural symposium explored practical questions about the materiality of sustainability information and its relevance to the capital markets. Attendees learned how sustainability factors drive value and how to use sustainability information to inform corporate strategies or investment decisions. The agenda included discussions on disclosure effectiveness, valuation methods, ESG integration and institutional investors, the analyst vs corporate perspective on ESG, and the ‘end of accounting’. The symposium concluded with a keynote address by Elisse Walter, Former Chair of the SEC, who discussed the future of sustainability disclosure in an uncertain regulatory environment.
Looking Forward to 2017
As we look back at the impressive array of conferences, presentations, and discussions in 2016, we are still faced with the harsh truth that approximately 27 million people are currently enslaved in the human trafficking trade around the world and within the next 15 years, there will be two billion new consumers, a 50 percent increase in energy demand, and the world’s water demand will exceed supply by 40 percent. As we look forward to the upcoming conferences in 2017, we hope to see more bold commitments, reports, and case studies on actions and results, greater focus on collaboration, and workshops with tangible outcomes.
Meet the EcoVadis Team
In the first quarter of 2017, EcoVadis will be participating in a number of conferences and web-based events, including the GRI Reporters Summit, GreenBiz 17, SkyTop Strategies CSR 3.0, and more. We invite you to meet with an EcoVadis representative at any of these events — simply click here to contact us.
If you are an EcoVadis client, we would be delighted to collaborate with you on telling your Sustainable Procurement story at an event or webinar. For more information, please email your Program Manager, or click here to contact us.
Daniel Perry, Senior Account Executive, EcoVadis
Lucas Lopez-Videla, Marketing Associate, EcoVadis