The COP26 Summit in Glasgow wrapped up last month with ambitious goals and important conversations around curbing rising temperatures and climate change effects. While there’s a lot for governments to address at a high level, there’s plenty businesses can do in their own organizations to achieve sustainability practices and set themselves up for long-term success.

We spoke with several CMO Club members to understand what incorporating sustainability initiatives looks like, tips on how to get started, and how it can impact a company’s future.

Ashwin Kumar
Head of Global Marketing, EthosEnergy
CMO Club Chapter: Houston
Christine Nashick
CEO Caribbean and CMO Americas, DHL Express
CMO Club Chapter: South Florida
Rachel Milutinovic
Founder, Eagle Consulting
CMO Club Chapter: Paris
Dawn Spencer
Marketing, Category, Innovation & Sustainability Director GB&I, Pilgrim's Food Masters
CMO Club Chapter: London
Tony Kempa
Managing Director, (CMO) Executive Leader of Marketing, Business Development, & Brand, ESD (Environmental Systems Design, Inc.)
CMO Club Chapter: Chicago
Jason Stanley
Associate Partner, The Governance Group
CMO Club Chapter: Houston

With everything that’s going on in the world today, sustainability is right at the top next to revenue, profit and safety. It’s something every company needs to be thinking about.
– Ashwin Kumar

Kickstart your company’s path towards sustainability

Establish targets and a baseline for your business

  • Before you can go all-in on sustainability, you must establish what sustainability looks like in practice for your business. What are the metrics? The KPIs that achieve sustainable outcomes? 
  • Measurements will be different for every business, which is why Jason Stanley, Associate Partner at The Governance Group, emphasizes organizations look at their basic components, products, partners, supply chain, etc to identify what areas are most obvious to address first. For example, DHL as a global transportation company, is mapping out a strategy to electrify 60% of their truck fleet by 2030 according to DHL Express Americas CMO Christine Nashick.
  • Crucially when companies identify sustainability metrics and targets, they must be as transparent as possible about what makes sense for your business. No use setting targets that may sound well and good, but aren’t achievable in practice. Hence the importance of establishing a baseline: start with the obvious needs and be patient in finding a way to create a competitive advantage for your business model.

We always recommend setting a timeline to make that progress. When it comes to ESG, be practical and very transparent about where you are.
– Jason Stanley

Ensuring sustainability is of operational importance

  • For sustainability to be a pillar of any business, it needs to be at the core of the company’s strategy. According to Eagle Consulting founder (and CMO Club member) Rachel Milutinovic, a company’s business model should be holistic in nature that includes factors beyond the financial importance. If you can’t drive a change in mindset, there will be no change at all.
  • Sustainability goals require efforts beyond compliance, says Pilgrim’s Food Masters Marketing and Sustainability Director Dawn Spencer. Incorporate sustainability through training and development for employees. Think about how it factors into developing products, packaging. Sustainability should permeate through communication on all aspects of the business. 
  • When in doubt, focus on ESG (environment, social and governance). It’s the term used internally to frame the non-financial factors of a business covering sustainability. Focus areas may differ for every organization, but generally cut across policies, procedures, inclusion, environmental footprint, partnerships, etc. Using these areas can also help you establish benchmarks for your business to target. 

How do you measure sustainability progress? By making intentional decisions on what you want to do, and have some sort of vision of what the results might look like.
– Tony Kempa

Good for the planet, good for business

  • Sustainability goals aren’t just for the good of the planet, it’s for the long-term success of any business. A strong sustainability proposition can help employee retention, rally support from consumers, and build brand loyalty. 
  • Consumers especially can drive home this point. As Rachel Milutinovic relayed in our conversation, companies risk losing existing and future consumers without embracing sustainability. 
  • Demonstrate utility for consumers, society, and the planet. Because without a sustainable future, we lose humanity, consumers, and future business. What could be more important for business values than that?

I always like to think about sustainability as a marathon, not a sprint. It’s not all about short term gains. It’s about understanding what decisions and results delivered today, and what they’ll yield in terms of value in the future.
– Dawn Spencer