Advancing towards Sustainability
Every day, a CEO has to tackle complex issues. At a recent DuPont event in Dubai, executives from around the world were asked to weigh in on how to accelerate sustainable growth through innovation and collaboration.
Sustainable growth in practice
The event was led by DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) and engaged participants into discussions devoted to exploring how to succeed as a business by serving the planet’s burgeoning human population. Participants shared the ways their companies are being called upon to make contributions to society while still meeting the expectations of their shareholders.
“We hosted the forum to give business leaders a chance to collaborate on ways to grow sustainably, while balancing shareholder accountability with stakeholder concerns, and company success with social progress,” DSS President Jim Weigand said. “We heard about the challenges that business leaders are facing, the solutions they’ve found and shared some of our own insights too.”
“Because it helps our business”
Conference participants agreed that sustainable growth is possible when organizations not only include, but actively collaborate with, a broader array of partners.
A social enterprise project underway at Unilever Hindustan was highlighted as a good example. Called Shakti, the program trains rural women in India to become independent distributors of FMCG products at the scale of individual villages.
“Unilever creates micro-entrepreneurs not just with an altruistic motive, but because it helps our business,” said Sanjiv Mehta, chairman of Unilever North Africa and Middle East.
But with every opportunity also comes a challenge. As populations grow and become more affluent, consumption patterns shift.
Robert Powell, a senior editor at The Economist, participated in another panel discussion on food, nutrition and health and he used the current situation in Gulf countries to highlight this dynamic. He noted, “There’s a complete change in living standards which has been accompanied by an extraordinary transformation in diet as people have the means to expand their choices.”
As a result, companies are now focusing on leveraging innovation to meet consumer demands for a wider variety of foods and flavors, while concurrently reducing waste and improving nutrition.
Creativity is required to make innovation work in most cases, and it becomes even more pressing when there is a short timeline. It was noted that in order to meet the growing demand for energy – a direct consequence of population growth and shifting consumption patterns – in an economically viable and environmentally sustainable way, the world’s current energy needs would quadruple by the year 2050.
By that measure, meeting energy needs for the future will require more than just new resources and new technologies.
“The challenge today is not only producing more energy, it is energy efficiency, meaning the allocation of the right fuel for the right use,” said Denis Giorno, president and CEO of Total New Energies USA, Inc.
Leadership has a role to play, too. In the forum’s closing session, moderator and DuPont CEO Ellen Kullman asked participants to share one action they would make in their own organizations based on takeaways from the event.
Sanjiv Mehta said that he would commit to leading Unilever’s promise of decoupling growth from its environmental footprint. Other panelists said they would work to strengthen and broaden their collaboration efforts.
“I’m confident that as we keep the dialog going, we will, together, find the answers,” said Jim Weigand.