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Who is the leader in sustainability — European or US company?
It’s an open question. And the answer largely depends on who you ask. While American observers generally credit Europeans as the vanguard of policy and action. Many Europeans looked west for America’s leadership.
Of course, both views have some truth.
last week At the first GreenBiz Executive Network Europe meeting, we saw both perspectives in relief. Serious conversations between dozens and a half companies. Meeting in a conference room in Paris, not far from the Louvre. Exposing transatlantic interdependence and transatlantic interdependence.
The event is organized under Chatham House rules, meaning participants and related entities may not be nominated. It brought in participants from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland. and United Kingdom (including me and two colleagues from United States, GreenBiz VP Sustainability Dylan Siegler and Co-Founders Pete May and Lori Gustavus, GreenBiz European Director in Paris), as well as a nearly 15-year member-led executive network in the U.S., promote peer-led learning. to-peer among the leaders in corporate sustainability
Our assumption is that European companies will not ask questions and share solutions. It took about 30 minutes to disprove it.
We learn in Europe that such groups are quite rare. One possible explanation: It is assumed that companies are less willing to share their knowledge or seek help from one another than in the United States. in the United States Many corporate sustainability initiatives are considered. before the raceIt has become common for companies to open up to their peers. even competitors to share what they are doing how they do and what they are learning along the way Not much in Europe
But as we saw last week There was a thirst for battle like this. Our initial assumption that the European business community would be reluctant to be open to the opportunity to ask questions and share solutions took about 30 minutes on the first day to disprove. under the leadership of Gustavus The conversation was closed and continued.
practical and philosophical
The topics are bounded like they tend to do at these meetings. There are mundane problems we’ve seen for a long time in companies. In the United States, that is to educate employees. consumer participation The role of the advisory board Upgrade the skills of sustainability professionals and more.
And there are some topics that are discussed infrequently. Some topics have philosophical concepts. Here are three (thanks Xana MaunzeOur diligent note-takers):
- natural solutions It is more common today to store and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. But Europeans seem to be asking more subtle questions. Among them: Are companies ready to set scientific goals for nature? Should biodiversity be of business importance? Companies will align their commitment to How can “positive nature” meet global goals? (Side note: We will be hosting a half day nature forum In the next month VERGE 22 Conference and Exhibition.)
- Policy participation and sustainability Better alignment is required. Businesses need to engage with policymakers and not just associations to drive policy changes that will impact sustainability. For Sustainability Executives That means using the inner circle of influence to create change. The company secretary or the risk, communications, legal, and other teams can partner with each other. depending on the organization
- Clash between sustainability and economic growth How can a company grow and still claim to support nature? Where is growth and rebuilding consistent and contradictory? How can we measure progress in the Restoration? Especially at the company level? A playbook is required on how it works.
On the last list, my friend, a pioneer in sustainable business. (and former GreenBiz contributor) John Elkington, highly regarded from both sides of the pool. Point out a two-sided “growth” conversation.
“Those who grew up in the sustainability industry have grown up in a world where we are trapped in the world of growth because we are going to 8. [billion]10 [billion]14 billion people,” he said. “Now you see the consensus collapse. Whether Japan or China, it will drop from 1.4 billion to 700 million by the end of the century. So deterioration is coming,” he said, referring to the implications for companies. in various sectors
As I said, from practical to philosophical.
Ultimately, the question of which continent will continue in tackling sustainable business remains largely questionable. Europeans and Americans — as well as many other social, cultural, economic, and geopolitical issues — are traveling in parallel. are facing remarkably similar battles and have similar successes. and generally move forward at the same speed Well, it seems faster than some people expected, but far, slower than it really needs to be.
In that regard, we are all family.
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