Executives from five major corporations discussed how they’re implementing sustainability efforts at a global summit on Thursday, Nov. 8, at National Geographic’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. The event was hosted by the Global Business Initiative (GBI) and the Office of Alumni and External Relations of Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
The summit commenced with remarks from Gary Knell, chairman, National Geographic Partners.
“This thought leadership is exactly what the hall here is supposed to be used for,” said Knell. “We hope that National Geographic’s 130 year-old mission about using the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world is a little bit about what we are going to talk about tonight. We have scientists, explorers, storytellers, sustainability officers, major companies — people who are in a position to make a difference.”
The event continued with a panel session that convened executives across industries who shared sustainability efforts currently being implemented in their organizations, as well as the challenges they foresee in the near future. The panel session was moderated by Ricardo Ernst, Baratta Chair in Global Business and director, Global Business Initiative.
“We must go from shareholders to stakeholders of this world,” said Ernst.
Panelists included Sean Cady, vice president of global supply chain and responsible sourcing, VF Corporation; Susan Kolodziejczyk, senior manager of sustainability, National Geographic; Rachel Sylvan, director of sustainability and corporate responsibility, Sodexo; Ann Tracy, vice president of sustainability and supply chain strategy, Colgate-Palmolive; and Johanna Nesseth Tuttle, manager of development and public policy, Chevron.
Cady discussed how developed countries have a responsibility to help developing nations with their sustainability efforts not to repeat the mistakes made in the past.
“The garment supply chain primarily flows through developing countries,” said Cady. “We have thousand of people auditing in every country from where we source. As an industry, we can do much more for sustainability if we work collaboratively with our competitors.”
Colgate-Palmolive discussed the company’s pledge to have all plastic packaging be 100 percent recyclable by 2025.
“We have to use the power of our brand to educate consumers...consumers want sustainable products, but they may not necessarily want to pay more,” said Tracy. “We have to encourage them to want that sustainable product so as to create that demand.”
Chevron highlighted the value of working with the government, including one of its longest partners, USAID.
“Through common values, data driven practices, and strong community governance model, USAID has charted a pathway toward economic growth for their country teams,” said Tuttle. “You never know where you are going to be, so you have to be responsible how you engage in a specific geography and with a community.”
Approximately 300 Georgetown University alumni, students, and university leaders participated in the event, as well as Global Business Advisory Board members, who were provided with the opportunity to network with the panelists.