Humanity passed an important milestone recently: the carbon dioxide level in the atmosphere reached an average of 400 parts per million. Evidence suggests that these levels haven’t seen these heights since the Pliocene Epoch.
This was the climate when Robert Kuhn recently attended the 2013 Ceres Conference in San Francisco. Ceres, an advocate for sustainability leadership, has been holding their annual conference for 10 years. The conference seeks to discuss sustainability trends, address new and emergent sustainability threats and opportunities and to develop a path to a sustainable global economy.
Kuhn came away from the conference with a three word summary: Alignment, Execution, and Accountability. “Companies need to align their financial strategy with their sustainability strategy, execute with aplomb and innovation and hold themselves and their value chain partners accountable for efforts, achievements and shortcomings,” he wrote in a recent newsletter.
He was particularly impressed with the Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy’s session at the conference. Carl Pope presented a plenary on the importance for a corporate imperative to nurture a low-carbon economy; BICEP followed up with an announcement that its declaration calling for a national climate change policy was recently signed by General Motors.
Another standout for him was a panel session on using supplier environmental, social and governance (ESG) data as leverage to drive change. Intel and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition presented case studies that underline the value of value chain network- and industry-based approaches. He also appreciated Sprint CEO’s Dan Hesse assertion that the conditions of the Great Depression influenced the way he thought about resources.
Kuhn’s latest concerns for the sustainability of our dwindling water supply was slaked by a panel on the Western Water Crisis, prompting his realization: “The Colorado River Basin represents the archetypal challenge in sustainable water management.” Another interesting takeaway for Kuhn was several discussions about the best ways to have financial reward flow more to entities that manage well their environmental and social capital as opposed to those entities who do not.
The conference ended with a panel session on Superstorm Sandy, for Kuhn and many the most clear sign that the climate we live in has changed. Calling Sandy “the Eastern U.S.’s most salient reminder” of a changing climate, Kuhn goes on to assert, “…that change represents a threat to our well-being unless we mitigate and adapt … NOW.”