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INTERVIEW - How to run a successful company and yet be environmentally-conscious, is a dilemma facing most corporates. In the past eco-awareness seemed contrary to good business practices. WWF (the World Wide Fund for Nature) feels the opposite. It believes that working together with industry is the way out of the current ecological and economic credit crunch.
WWF started its One Planet Leaders Programme in 2007 to help companies understand and exploit the benefits and opportunities inherent in the sustainability challenge. The training Programme is designed to provide insights, pathways and tools to align business models with current environmental and social trends. “It shows that preserving our scarce natural resources is entirely compatible with winning and maintaining customer value and trust. The objective of the Programme is to catalyze transformational change by equipping and empowering business leaders to do sustainable business,” says Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, Director Corporate Relations, WWF International. .
“The challenge for the future is to counter increasing inequality and environmental stress. Companies are clearly recognizing the need to mainstream environmental and social issues into core activities and the necessity of building staff competence to transform operations into more sustainable business models. We invite you to join WWF and our network of experts, partners and associates in a challenging exploration, to identify innovative solutions and help create the companies of the future,” Jean-Paul continues.
Some of the companies that have participated in the One Planet Leaders Programme include among others ABN Amro, Canon, the Coca Cola Company, Fortis, IKEA, General Mills, Lloyds TSB, Nestle, Nokia and Procter & Gamble.
Automotive Industries spoke to Jean-Paul Jeanrenaud, Director of Corporate Relations, WWF International.
AI: What are some of the industries and businesses that have shown interest in your One Planet Leaders programme?
The Programme is able to attract participants from a wide range of industries. We have had participants join from industries like Fast Moving Consumer Goods, Food, Electronics, Telecom, Finance, Furniture and the list goes on.
AI: What does this programme offer to executives in the automotive industry?
The move to a low-carbon society and economy has consequences for all, but the implications for the automotive industry will be substantially deeper and wider than in many other cases. Companies who get ahead of the competition by strategically integrating Sustainability into their core business will be the ones who flourish. The Programme will show leaders in the automotive industry WHAT to focus on, HOW to respond to it, and how to OPERATIONALISE the change needed.
AI: How do you think the One Planet Leaders programme can help the auto industry which is seeing many of its biggest companies facing an uncertain future?
Sustainability has proved to be a powerful vehicle for innovation and out of the box thinking. Once a company starts looking at their business through the environmental and social lens, opportunities inevitably arise. The skill is to spot and solve which to pursue and how, and the Programme is designed to deliver this. We believe Sustainability is what will parachute the auto industry into the future, with the first movers reaping the biggest benefits.
AI: Tell us about WWF’s approach to working and supporting businesses.
WWF sees a future in which companies make a net positive contribution to the well-being of society and the planet. We believe corporate engagement is key to transforming markets. It’s a lever for changing domestic and international law and for adopting and promoting sector-wide shifts to sustainable development. Our work with companies ranges from strategic partnerships (bilateral), through convening and round tables (multi-lateral), to pull-activities like training and push-activities like campaigning, when needed.
AI: How can this approach benefit companies within the automotive industry?
WWF brings half a century of experience in finding solutions for humans to live in harmony with nature, and how to work with companies, governments and society to achieve this. The accumulated expertise is an extremely valuable source for companies to tap into. Further, over the past years we have developed proven processes and tools for integrating Sustainability. These are applicable across business sectors and regions.
AI: Tell us a little about the reasons the One Planet Leaders programme was started? Who was it initially aimed at? Today, who does the programme target?
This innovative and timely programme draws on our long experience of solutions-focused business partnerships. A few years ago, WWF offered tailored workshops to one of our partner companies. The perceived value was so great, the partner suggested we extended the reach of our training to the outside world. In fact, the company was so convinced about the programme’s usefulness, they volunteered to help finance the project to get it off the ground. And so, in 2007, WWF offered One Planet Leaders for the first time. The target has remained unchanged since then and we continue to attract business leaders and policy makers who are in a position to drive change. In particular, we reach out to managers and executives in high impact or high change potential companies, such as the auto makers.
AI: Tell us a little about the structure of the One Planet Leaders programme? Why the emphasis on the modular approach? What is the learning focus the programme follows?
The Programme has been designed to deliver the most impactful learning experience. It focuses on three core elements: (1) Content - delivered by the best brains in the field of Sustainability, (2) Internalization and deep personal understanding – supported by discussions, interactions and case studies, and (3) Practicality and implementation – achieved by case studies and real examples, plus extensive tutor support in between workshops and in the 100 days following the Programme.
It consists of ‘face to face’ interaction on three Workshops (2 days/month), and is complemented by distance support during the ‘off’ period be it on-line or via video-conferencing or telephone. Workshop One deals with Business Dependencies. Here we focus on the WHAT in order to strategically engage in the how. Workshop Two focuses on the Future of Business and HOW to drive change. We explore new business models, and look at sustainability as a driver for innovation and value creation. Workshop Three deals with Business Change and implementation. Specific attention is placed on organizational culture and processes, plus internal/external communication of Sustainability credentials, as key levers for change
New for 2009 is the possibility to access the Programme as stand-alone workshops, so now participants can opt for the Full Programme or to attend only one or two workshops. This gives companies the opportunity to spread the learning across a team and send different members to the workshops. Further, participants who are unable to attend on a specific date can now access that workshop on a later Programme. Finally, this gives participants with limited training budget the opportunity to join the workshop most relevant to their role and context.
AI: What are the benefits of sustainability leverage? And why is it important?
Where do I begin! I’ll start from the back end. It is so important because frankly we have no choice. If we do not dramatically change our behaviors, significantly reduce our impact and start living in harmony with nature, the planet will turn into an inhospitable place that we would all wish our children and grand children never have to experience. Moreover, we will no longer have access to the rich diversity of natural resources, which many people forget, underpin our economy. A collapse on one side of the spectrum will inevitably cause a collapse in the other. We have no choice but to act together now.
The benefits for leading companies are manifold. I would suggest, above all, the most important benefit is the deeper connections these companies are able to build with their stakeholders – they get invited when governments are working out future regulations and targets; their employees are more loyal, content – even happier, and this positively impacts their productivity and innovative thinking; their consumers are more loyal, NGOs and society at large support them. They have been given a competitive license to operate and grow. In addition to that, companies who ride the green-wave can also improve their top and bottom line by tapping into a new and growing market segment and reducing costs and risks across the supply chain.
About One Planet Leaders
The Programme features three two-day workshops spread across three months. The 2009 version of One Planet Leaders, held outside Zurich in Switzerland, starts on September 21 – 23 with Workshop One, called ‘Sustainability and Your Business Future’. This workshop will offer a full introduction to, and immersion in, the challenge of sustainability. “Together, we will explore the effects of environmental and social trends on the future of your business. We will develop innovative responses that fit your particular organization,” says Carolina Moeller, Manager for Business Training at WWF International.
The second workshop entitled ‘Business Transformation for Sustainability’, is being held on October 19-21. This workshop helps participants future-proof their businesses and leverage Sustainability as a driver for innovation, business value and competitive advantage. It covers global best practices, business models and processes to help stimulate change. The third workshop, being held on November 16-18, is ‘Creating and Communicating Change for Sustainability’. This workshop focuses on implementing change and operationalising of strategies and action plans.. “We investigate the human dimension, the levers and obstacles to change, and how to communicate sustainability credentials effectively,” Carolina continues.
Apart from the workshops, the programme offers participants management tools to help develop concrete action plans for change within their organizations. Tutor support and resources are available for six months in order to tailor the learning and action to each specific situation. Further, participants are encouraged to build ‘One Planet Teams’ in their businesses who, from a distance, can part take in the learning journey, and importantly, provide support in the implementation phase.
Overall the Programme offers a deeper understanding of the environmental, social and political pressures facing business and the solutions available. As such, participants gain the ability to spot and solve sustainability challenges and learn how to integrate sustainability strategically into the core operations of their company. And they soon realize that the motivation for change is not merely altruistic but first and foremost, makes business sense.
The WWF’s One Planet Leaders Programme can also be customized for individual companies. Drawing from the Public Programme, the content is adapted and elaborated to respond to the specific company’s context and needs. The customized training enables a company to work with a larger team on well defined issues. Past experience show that companies often find it beneficial to first invest in the deeper learning and skills development of a few key players (Public Programme) and then use customized training to accelerate change and implementation. Equally, some companies first use customized training to get a taster of the full Programme before they send participants to the course.
The workshops have been designed for leaders who operate at a strategic level and can drive the change we so urgently need. “The economic downturn is a stark reminder of the consequences of living beyond our means, but it pales in comparison with the coming ecological credit crunch. Our global footprint (the impact each of us makes on the planet) now exceeds the world’s capacity to regenerate all the goods and services we depend on by about 30 per cent – and, if our demands on the planet continue at the same rate, by the mid-2030s we will need the equivalent of two planets to maintain our lifestyles,” James P. Leape, Director General, WWF.
The message is clear - “There is still time to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change, resource depletion, water scarcity, and the other challenges we face – but there is no time to lose. We need to act now if we are to build a better, more prosperous and well-balanced society within the limits of the Earth’s natural resources. None of us can do this alone – which is why we invite you to join us on the journey to build the businesses of the future. We invite you to become One Planet Leaders.”
The One Planet Leadership programme rests on ten pillars – zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable materials, local and sustainable foods, sustainable water, natural habitats and wildlife, culture and heritage, equity and fair trade, health and happiness.