SUSTAINABLE FUTURES EUROPEAN EXECUTIVE SUMMARY REPORTAn insight into European sustainability trends in businessForewordSustainable businesses are crucial to future growth and prosperity. InterfaceFLOR’s Europeanreports on sustainability trends in business demonstrate that now and in the future, successfulcompanies are those whose Corporate Social Responsibility and growth targets are as one, andwhere sustainable business practices are part of the organisation’s DNA, not a bolt-on driven bylegislation.Interface’s path towards becoming a totally sustainable business has been well documented. Wehave been single-mindedly walking down that route for more than 13 years with one objective inmind – achieving a zero environmental footprint by the year 2020. We call it Mission Zero, and itis far from being “Mission Impossible”.It is clear that without the costs we have avoided through sustainable initiatives, which total morethan $336m since 1996, we might not be in business today. Looking ahead, our target growth is10% year-on-year, which we will achieve by considering the environmental impact of everycreative, manufacturing and management decision that we make. We are aggressively taking thatmessage to our customers, our suppliers and to government.We don’t think we have all the answers. Far from it. But we want to share what we and our peersknow. We have asked some of the leading experts from around Europe for their opinions, theirinput, and their strategic thinking on the same themes. It is only by imparting their knowledge,and learning from one another that we can all move forward.We asked our experts three fundamental questions: • What significance will sustainable development have for society, companies and the individual in the future? • Who can and should create the changes towards a more sustainable future – and what are the benefits? • What actions can and should be carried out here and now, in the near future and in the long term?Our Sustainable Futures Reports for the UK, France, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmarkdetail actions that organisations can start to put in place to deliver a sustainable business plan.They provide even more direction to businesses who truly believe in tomorrow, and want to putsomething back into the environment they serve.Yours,Lindsey ParnellPresident and CEO, InterfaceFLOR Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Executive SummaryContributions for this summary have been gathered from some of the leading experts in the fieldsof business, human resources, and the environment, from the UK, Germany, the Netherlands,Denmark and France. They examined trends in sustainable businesses across key areas ofleadership, marketing, communications, business environment, employee engagement and designand innovation.The UN Climate Report, issued in January this year, was a wake-up call for many governmentsover the state of the world’s ecology. It reinforced what many had known for a long time, that ouractions are having an ever increasing and deteriorating effect on the planet.The report expressed concern that human actions were leading to an irreversible shift in globaltemperatures and a rise in sea levels that will have effects on generations to come, and it issued awarning about the “smoking gun” of the consequences if nothing is done now.Overwhelmingly however, the necessity to change is not a threat, but a chance to preserve andincrease our prosperity using new ideas and technologies. The following summary of theInterfaceFLOR Sustainable Futures Reports demonstrates that sustainability is not an isolatedgoal, but a continuing process of change, offering more opportunity than risk.Key trends and findings are as follows:Leadership: Less is moreThe key to effective sustainable leadership in European business is the recognition that profit andplanet are not mutually exclusive – and that the way forward is to let the entrepreneurs andcreatives lead the strategy, rather than risk the isolated thinking of the finance function.All companies have one major goal and that is to make profit. But this idea is not irreconcilablewith a balanced view of global markets and a measured approach as to how the world’s naturalresources can be deployed. Companies are starting to take a role in their relationship with theirsuppliers and take the lead in fairly, justly, paying producers, farmers and manufacturers aroundthe world.Europe, as with the rest of the world, is well into a phase of “de-carbonisation” of the economy –using more fossil fuel resources than the world can ever replace. The growth in the developmentof efficient technologies across Europe – from energy generation to transportation – shows thatcompanies are on the right track. However, the next step is the realisation that exploiting thesetechnological advances will be a crucial aspect of successful management.The agents of change in a business are about winning the “war for talent” for staff, by encouragingand fostering a positive network where the best idea, with the best talent, for the best price, cancombine to produce the best sustainable results. But is leadership on sustainability issues reallycoming from the top? The agents of change are just as likely to be ethically drivenenthusiasts, social entrepreneurs, critical grassroots supporters and politicalpioneers. So who are the real leaders - the business bosses or the activists?
Marketing: From persuasion to educationIn order to make sustainability live within and outside the organisation, marketing needs to stopthinking of itself as a niche proposition and to propel itself into the mainstream, educating as wellas promoting the market advantage of corporate social responsibility. The idea of CSR mustincreasingly be turned into action, and marketers are best placed to demonstrate this.Marketing and consumerism have often been blamed for the destruction of traditional societiesand exploiting the Third World. A new dynamic is emerging where the marketer does not have toassume that the customer is always right, nor that the customer is king. Now marketing must takethe lead and educate customers that sustainability is the way forward.Marketing must also play some role in connecting the consumption of consumer products withthe social and environmental problems they create. Crucially, companies must not make a shallowcommitment to sustainability. Credibility and authenticity are the basic requirements for asustainable marketing campaign and it is not enough to communicate that message without anykind of change in company attitudes or methods of working.Communication: The art of getting personalEuropean businesses cannot afford to sit still and rely on old fashioned marketing orcommunications networks. They also need to recognise that sustainability is a message that isbeing spread at a personal level.Internet broadcasting site You Tube is reportedly streaming more than 30 million videos a day.Social networking site MySpace has 10 million members (mostly teens and young adults), with afurther 250,000 joining daily. Blogs are being created at the rate of 80,000 a day.Today, social computing and the growth of the Web 2.0 world mean that a company’s reputationcan be won or lost in chat rooms. Peer-to-peer networks are becoming one of the most influentialfactors on the reasons why people buy goods and services – or similarly switch off from buyingthem. Getting personal is the latest stage of the evolution of corporate social responsibility.Companies started this approach when, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, a few of them began toissue reports on their responsible approach to business. By 2004 that number had grown to 1,800worldwide, with 81% of all FTSE100 companies producing CSR reports. Companies now haveentire departments devoted to the role of CSR, with a remit solely dedicated to working oninitiatives that will improve the way the organisation is perceived.Ultimately however, it is those companies that have personalities and beliefs, and can validatethem, that are the ones customers will listen to. But crucially, what companies are still not doingis communicating those beliefs in a way that is personal enough.Business and the environment: Putting a price on emotionThe world will have to face up to the fact that we cannot give future generationsthe same conditions of life that we have given ourselves. Resources are not finiteand a limit must be placed on our current rate of consumption. The major debateis therefore what should we do to limit demand? Is legislation the right way to go
about it or should we introduce the notion that we can influence the consumers to change theirhabits?Some of the reports’ commentators argue strongly that it was only EU legislation in 2001 thatstopped companies deducting costs for bribery from company accounts. On the other hand,ecology and fair trade have been shown to live hand-in-hand as consumers start to lead thechange towards more ethically focused goods.Consumers are increasingly prepared to pay the price premium because they know goods havebeen produced ethically and fairly. Fairtrade® is one of the first major schemes to lead this trend –by selling products marketed on the back of ethical fairness. Now, some of the major banks aremarketing their services on the back of ethical investments, guaranteeing that investors’ moneywill not support the arms trade or oil exploration schemes in protected environments.Europe’s businesses have responsibilities which come with operating in an increasinglyconnected world. Greenhouse gases cause global warming worldwide. The southern hemispheresuffers because of the actions of the industrialised nations in the northern hemisphere. Socompanies need to be aware that their actions have an impact on everyone.While voluntary action is the best way forward, most companies are bracing themselves for theintroduction of legislation that makes compliance compulsory. A recent German survey showedthat companies are already preparing themselves for a new raft of environmental legislation, butthree quarters also expect to be able to cope with the effects without any significant economicdrawbacks.Employee engagement: Partners in a shared journeyEurope lives in a knowledge-driven economy where employees earn their living from utilising theinformation they have at their disposal. By the very nature of their work, knowledge workers aremore than ever motivated by the alignment of their organisation’s values with their own.To make progress on their sustainable path, companies need the cooperation, willingness andactive participation of the entire workforce. The values of the company must be carefullyexplained. Then, and only then, can a company embrace the ethos of sustainability.Many employers are beginning to measure the link between employee engagement, customersatisfaction and improved profitability and productivity – and employees engaged in thecompany’s sustainable journey are more likely to have an impact on company profitability. Theapproach proves that retaining existing customers is much more cost-effective than acquiringnew ones and the “service climate” created by committed employees who can convey thesustainability message is a central driver of success.Tomorrow’s employers need to understand their employees better by auditing their attitudes.They need to devise mechanisms with employees that help motivate and engage their labour, andthey need to help measure those responses to see how effective the mechanisms have been.
Design and innovation: Fresh eyes, fresh thinkingDesign and product innovation need to look at their contribution to business growth with fresheyes, not just focus on technique and cost.By the year 2050 more than 85% of the world’s population will be living in what are nowdeveloping countries. Water will become scarcer as populations increase. The demands for cropsand food sources will grow.All this will mean a change in the way companies design and develop products. Companies in thedeveloped world have already started, with the hybrid electric car the first real example of howwe are cutting down the dependence on oil for transport.But businesses will need to shift their output to meet the new markets. If the world’s populationis expanding so rapidly in the Third World, then products will need to shift to accommodate orimprove their needs. Companies may need to gear their R&D spend to relatively low incomepopulations, or what is described as the “bottom of the pyramid” approach, leading to a newemphasis to design products and services that are affordable and which will improve their qualityof life.Designers will also need to look very closely at the materials they are using. If there is a scarcity ofresources, then the emphasis must be on efficient design and the removal of any elements of over-engineering in a product. It costs manufacturers more, their customers more, and theenvironment more. Products should be fit for purpose and no more.In many ways, designers will have to view the world from a fresh angle, as though they arelooking at the world with a fresh pair of eyes.ConclusionThe sustainable journey is made possible through the accumulation of many individual actions –actions which any and every business can take. Across Europe, much rethinking and realignmentis clearly taking place in terms of how companies develop their businesses and their productswithin the context of corporate social responsibility, and how they bring their workforce withthem. Over the next few years vision, planning, listening – and not a little courage – are needed toensure that sustainability is indivisible from the organisation, and that future growth andprosperity can be realised as a result.
European ContributorsUK: • Stephanie Draper – Forum For The Future • James Goodman – Forum For The Future • Dr Ingrid Kajzer Mitchell – University of Strathclyde Business School • Solitaire Townsend – Futerra • Sophy Bristow – The Climate Group • Nick Isles – The Work Foundation • Beatrice Otto – World Business Council for Sustainable DevelopmentFrance: • Anne-Marie Sargueil – French Institute of Design • Philippe Turin – ECO DEV • Romain Thévenet – eco-designer • Jean-Marc Brunet – Max Havelaar France • Eric Eustache – Planète Urgence • Anne Ged – Solving France • Laurence Lecoeur – ESSEC EmmaGermany : • Prof. Dr. Peter Hennicke – Wuppertal Institute • Prof. Dr. Konrad Zerr – University of Applied Sciences Pforzheim • Prof. Dr. Waldemar Pförtsch – University of Applied Sciences Pforzheim • Steffen Heil – Institute for Social Marketing • Prof. Dr. Maximilian Gege – B.A.U.M. e.V. • Martin Oldeland – B.A.U.M. e.V. • Erich Weber – Foundation of Labor and Environment of the Industrial Union of Mining, Chemical Industry, Energy • Jurek M. Slapa – J.S.K. Dusseldorf
Holland: • Anastasia Kellerman – Sustainability Unlimited • Rob van Tilburg – DHV • Mark van der Veen – HES Hogeschool for Economical Studies in Amsterdam • Professor George Molenkamp – KPMG Sustainability • Ellen van den Adel – Work on ProgressDenmark: • Tania Ellis – Author and business advisor • Niels Due Jensen – Grundfos, chairman for the Danish Council for Sustainable Business Development • Kim Carstensen – WWF • Anne Skare Nielsen – Future Navigator • Claus Stig Petersen – Novozymes • Jens Berthelsen – Global Advice Network • Henrik Wenzel – University of Southern Denmark • Mads Krage – Max Havelaar • Søren Hvilshøj – Grontmij Carl Bro • Karin Laljani – InterfaceFLOR • Mads Øvlisen – FN Global Compact