ATLANTA: Jim Hartzfeld is head of Sustainability, North America for Brambles. His career also includes two decades at carpet manufacturer Interface, working with the legendary CEO Ray Anderson to ensure the company would reach net-zero at a time when 99.99 percent of the world's population didn't even know what it meant.
In a critical year for the planet’s future, he acknowledges sustainability is becoming a way of life for many organizations, including CHEP and its parent company Brambles:
Our view of supply chain sustainability is that it’s not only good for the environment and the workers that connect people with life’s essentials every day – it’s also good for business. And it’s capturing more of the mainstream every day, at a rate accelerated through the public health, social inequity and economic crises this past year.
As businesses continue to move toward more sustainable practices to better their organizations, consumers are fast tracking change by choosing more brands that share their passion for sustainability.
A recent IBM Institute of Business Value global consumer survey found 90 percent of consumers surveyed reported the COVID-19 pandemic affected their views on environmental sustainability. Many said they would pay more of their own hard-earned money or take a pay cut for a more sustainable future.
The CHEP share and reuse model is inherently circular as the pallets, crates and containers we own are repaired before looping back through the circular supply chain. It’s not only an effective business model, but sustainability is truly at the heart of what we do, pushing our teams to continuously challenge ourselves to do more good.
Every June, around World Environment Day (June 05), Brambles Sustainability Week is celebrated internally with employees and externally with customers and other organizations that prioritize a sustainable future and supply chain. The initiatives and tactics are part of the CHEP program aren’t just ‘feel good’ parts for doing better—they’re tied to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a collection of 17 goals adopted in 2015 with the intention of achieving them by 2030.
In that spirit, CHEP’s annual Sustainability Day aligned with our translation of the UN’s 2021 World Environment Day theme of ecosystem restoration, which we can apply by going beyond zero to create regenerative, restorative supply chains.
But CHEP’s story goes even deeper... and began over a decade ago.
In 2010, CHEP knew it was time to elevate our sustainability efforts at a time when only a few other large corporations simultaneously noticed the need for organizations to drive systematic change across the global supply chain.
With that, we embarked on a five-year journey to reach specific 2015 goals. Those were then evaluated to create the 2020 sustainability goals, which included achievements like:
• Reducing CO2 emissions per unit delivered by 20 percent;
• Contributing 0.7 percent of our pre-tax profits to Better Communities programs; and
• Aiming for continuous improvements in packaging waste, food waste and CO2e through collaboration with customers and suppliers achieved through our Zero Waste World program.
In 2020 alone, Brambles collaborated with 273 customers to eliminate 47 million empty truck miles reducing CO2 emissions by 86 kilotons, but over 349 kilotons since 2015.
After achieving almost all our 2020 goals, there was no rest after the hugs and high-fives. We got straight back to work because reducing our negative impact was no longer good enough. Our customers, shareholders, employees and all their families deserve more, so our ambition for 2025 was redefined to become a regenerative, nature-positive business.
Part of that was to revisit our belief that companies with authentic sustainability ambitions, concrete goals and vibrant governance systems to monitor and adjust course build durable competitive advantages. They attract more quality job candidates, particularly Millennials and Gen Zers. They also tend to manage risk well, set long-term strategies and perform better in the stock market than companies without such aspirational goals, or corporate purpose.
Managers of massive public equity funds—along with some of the biggest private equity firms—are voting with their dollars and proxy votes that companies blind to risks of climate change may not sustain the value creation necessary to serve their investors. The need is to innovate or liquidate: If you’re not innovating as a business and working toward sustainability, you might as well start liquidating because it’s just a matter of time.
One of my favorite quotes, from visionary and friend Bill McDonough is, ‘Negligence starts tomorrow.’ To me, this means that just because you said or did something a year ago, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing today. You should, instead, pause at times to look at the world through fresh eyes, be open to new insights, and have the courage to make a different decision today. In business, this means understanding what’s important to your stakeholders, customers and employees, and building the courage and agility to shift accordingly, NOW!
There’s boldness and power behind the spirit and movement of sustainability, it engages people and unlocks doors to new avenues of creativity like nothing I’ve ever seen. It draws people together around a higher purpose that lifts their eyes above the petty internal competitiveness that can live in any group of three or more people and can raise supply chain relationships and the value they create to new levels.
Work that matters to serve people that matter to restore places that matter: Who wouldn’t want to do that?
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