Going Global – Driving Sustainability Initiatives Across Borders

June 6, 2017 Yvonne Vogt


global sustainability


Implementing sustainability practices in a large, multinational company poses a variety of challenges – a key one falling under the theme of coverage – how can a company make sure that their sustainability mission, practices and initiatives are maintained across all subsidiaries?

Bruno Cothenet, CSR Director at Soufflet Group, Dr. Holger Hoppe, Head of Sustainability Management at KION Group and Sharon Dirks, Senior Manager of Global Corporate Social Responsibility at BCD Travel shared their challenges and experiences on implementing a truly global sustainability management system in their companies at the EcoVadis SustaIn Conference on May 10, 2017 in Paris, France.

Although operating under very different industries with unique CSR risks, Soufflet Group in agrifood, KION in machine manufacturing, and BCD in business travel; the three companies share similar obstacles when it comes to implementing a successful CSR management system.


The challenge faced by all

For BCD Travel, the EcoVadis assessment enlightened them on a common challenge that many multinational companies face when building their sustainability agenda–ensuring global coverage.

“One of our limitations was in the improvement in our environmental practices,” said Mrs. Dirks. “As a global company, we were not doing all things globally but more on a regional or local level. We couldn’t achieve the maximum score in the Environmental section because our practices were not covering our global scale of operations. This insight was a learning experience that has really helped us improve”.

KION Group faced similar obstacles, especially when it came to developing their governance structure. Operating in more than 400 sites around the world, the KIONGroup had to ensure that sustainability management was integrated and standardized across all departments and brands.


Collaboration as a way to push the sustainability agenda forward

Dr. Hoppe shared that for KION it was important to stress collaboration among departments and different business units. “We see the implementation of sustainability objectives as a great way for collaboration – you need to involve your colleagues so that they integrate sustainability as a part of their processes – which they are the owners of.” Giving this sense of ownership over these processes to colleagues outside of sustainability roles in the company proved to be highly incentivizing

With 61 production sites in 18 countries touching both the agriculture & markets and industry & services sectors, collaboration is integral for the Soufflet Group to achieve their sustainability mission.

Soufflet solved this problem by implementing an internal pyramid structure of correspondents that meet every trimester review targets and priorities, discuss problems and solutions. Each correspondent has an individual point-person on site in each country where Soufflet operates that is able to report back in order to bring upper management higher visibility on those sites.


Engaging and aligning your team

Mr. Cothenet expressed that the biggest challenge for them was to keep sustainability initiatives as a priority on everyone’s desk, “We always want to keep this on the top of the list, but inevitably priorities shift, we have to keep trying to keep the importance of these initiatives on the top of the pile.”

To incentivize people, Dr. Hoppe stressed the importance of linking the initiative to a greater outcome, to show what the benefit of this initiative would mean for the person, rather than just make reporting and compliance a “tick in the box exercise.” For him, having a great Sustainability Report allows the company to summarize their key initiatives in a way that internal stakeholders (employees) can understand easily and also share with external stakeholders or customers.


Making sustainability a global Initiative

Mrs. Dirks presented an excellent example of a challenge that BCD Travel is facing in making sustainability a global initiative.

BCD Travel is currently in the process of implementing a global health and safety management system with the goal to be ISO 14001 and ISO 18001 certified by the end of 2017. So far they have developed a management system that has been rolled out in their 26 wholly owned countries and have defined EHS Coordinators in each location responsible for its implementation and success.

The first step was to introduce the environment, health & safety policy and collect baseline data. They recently completed a gap analysis and have determined next steps to be taken. Improvement plans have been communicated to all locations to ensure progress is made in the next reporting period. This global rollout exemplifies the types of challenges companies face when attempting to improve their management systems across a global landscape.


Maximum visibility across the supply chain

These three companies use the EcoVadis Corporate solution in order to gain more visibility on their respective company’s management systems. For Mr. Cothenet at Soufflet, the EcoVadis evaluation and Corporate Platform has been very helpful for his company considering how many levels down the value chain his business touches.

As Mr. Cothenet expressed, “we are part of the process from seed to bread. We need to care about this value chain and offer our customers the security of quality and traceability.” Having this level of visibility throughout the chain allows the Soufflet Group to improve their processes and have the confidence to say that they are providing quality and sustainable products.

Interested in implementing this level of visibility within your global company? Click here to request a free consultation on the EcoVadis Corporate Group solution.


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