During the opening remarks, Paul Keser, CFO of Nexio Projects – Sustainability Consultants was excited to announce Nexio’s expansion into the Asian market with offices in both Hong Kong and Mainland China. Samuel Boyd, a Managing Partner of Nexio Asia, attended the event to share his insight and speak with attendees on their processes bring Asian based departments up to speed with CSR. Richard Bourne, the senior representatives of EcoVadis made his opening comments with Paul Keser stipulating that the B2B Sustainability Forum 2019 is about gathering knowledge on creating a sustainable business and gathering practical knowledge combined with the workshops that will give you tools to integrate in your supply chain after the forum.
Gold is only the beginning
If a single theme could be echoed amongst the crowd, it would have been “A Gold EcoVadis rating is only the beginning”. Attendees and speakers alike gathered throughout the forum to share inspiring stories on the benefits of corporate sustainability within their companies and their lives.
Those new to EcoVadis assessments were eager to learn what EcoVadis is all about and how to achieve the coveted Gold. Those who have been focusing on CSR implementation inside their companies, on the other hand, presented the benefits and challenges sustainable companies commonly meet after their Gold rating is awarded.
It is easy to understand that the initial response when buyers require CSR documentation, is to do whatever needs to be done to get a little piece of paper saying your business has a CSR rating, that, once obtained, is forgotten. If the benefits and impact are not presented to assessing companies by their requesting sustainable companies, CSR can look again to another bureaucratic certification used to delay the smooth flow of business and waste time, which could otherwise be used for business growth. Those in attendance were not individuals interested in sustainability just because it was a request that came from somewhere along the chain of command; that said, there is a chance this is how it started for some. And we learned, there is nothing wrong with how companies came to want CSR, the inspiring outcome is the number of organizations growing their sustainable management initiatives.
Regardless as to how those in attendance became inspired by sustainability, the success stories that where shared, highlighted the benefits of CSR. Those who became top-rated sustainable firm in the eyes of EcoVadis, started understanding what sustainability is all about and what the addition values are, once you really start investing in it.
One of the participants of our panel debate was Carmen Hualda, CSR Manager at Atlinks. Carmen’s topic highlighted the impressive benefit of being a sustainable company, in which both management and employees contribute to a shared CSR vision. The organization has an enormous commitment towards implementing and including sustainable innovation in their DNA. It was a process that everyone supported and continuously is improving on in order to get the best results. Integrating CSR in the day to day internal operations and tracking progress for over a long time already, has led Atlinks to what could be considered the easiest IPO into the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, simply because their company was so well organized, documented, and transparent. The HKSE was beyond satisfied with what Atlinks provided to them. For most companies interested in turning public, the process, regardless of the market, is tedious and time-consuming. Atlinks, on the contrary, was perfectly prepared for this challenge, as their long-term focus on being sustainable, meant they already had organized reporting and concise policies in place. The most important element were all the employees and management united together on moving the firm towards a sustainable CSR management system.
This example illustrated how corporate social responsibility or corporate sustainability is always in motion. Once your headquarters are thinking CSR, then your subsidiaries and individual departments can commit their focus to it. And even after your company’s internal and external DNA is pillar example sustainability, your attention to make the world a better place never ends.
Drive to Continuous improvement
As stipulated by the moderator and Dr Roland Mees, ‘Gold is only the beginning’, imbued in DNA of your company.
However, at Nexio Projects, we often get confronted with the fact that CSR responsible only touch upon one or two criteria of the definition of sustainability. As discussed, meaning that sustainability is a continuous improvement plan that needs to be planned thoroughly and need to be acted upon the DNA of your company.
As discussed during the forum by Chennan and Marc, sustainability can be defined by no less then 21 criterions divided in 4 pillars also known as Environment; Sustainable Procurement; Labor Practices; and Ethics.
In other words, the sustainability department is responsible of building, optimizing and monitoring the CSR Management system of the firm, which covers the whole supply chain of the company’s operations.
Furthermore, being a sustainability manager is being an implementor and being the person who acts in the company. As the title entails of this section, continuous improvement is key in order for a firm to be able to create a competitive advantage and long-term impact. It is important to stipulate with regards to EcoVadis that even if you reach EcoVadis Gold that does not mean that you have reached the end of your sustainability journey. On the contrary, this means as the methodology of EcoVadis explains that your business operations have reached a certain level. A level that enables you now to move forward towards generating impact that is applicable to your DNA and business operations.
As a result, do not make any assumptions that after reaching a certain level that you think you finished your journey because that is not what sustainability is about. On the contrary, sustainability is about continuous awareness of the positive and negative elements in your company that need to be improved/ optimized and celebrated. Please be aware there also need to be a moment of reflection where you can look back towards the positive impact and changes you made in the last couple of years. It is not always about the flaws that need to be indicated and worked on. A positive element now can become a flaw or negative standard in the future. As a result, it is key as a sustainability manager to monitor the operations closely in order to be able to drive continuous improvement on a daily basis.
Unity between financial and sustainability performance
There was no better person capable of highlighting the financial advantages of sustainability within a company, than Dr. Roland Mees, Director of Sustainable Finance at ING Wholesale Banking.
Dr. Mees explained during his presentation how ING Bank analyzed companies focused on sustainability and uses this as an indicator to estimate the long-term credibility of a firm. Because it is a fact that firms who invest in CSR have a better change of performing well in the future. With this in mind, and ING’s desire to be more sustainable themselves, they sought no better way to reduce their direct footprint by lending to those focused on doing the same. The goal of ING is to stimulate other companies to start working on sustainability and enable this continuous improvement within their supply chain. The end goal, creating a unity between the financial aspect of your firm and your CSR management system that is a key driver of your company. This combination is seen as a successful unity which provides credibility towards a bank as ING that you will be able to outperform as mentioned by the Financial Times in 2019.
A Unique Focus on Asian Supplier Implementation
China and Greater Asia was a hot topic during the forums and networking discussions. Senior CSR Analysist, Chennan Wu from EcoVadis shared her insight on both the challenges and growth she sees in the Asia market with domestic and international suppliers focusing on CSR and the environment. Her insight was well-timed, as a surprising number of questions were themed around obtaining CSR certifications in China and South-East Asia.
During the opening remarks, Paul Keser, CFO of Nexio Projects was excited to announce Nexio’s expansion into the Asian market with offices in both Hong Kong and Mainland China. Samuel Boyd, a Managing Partner of Nexio Asia, attended the event to share his insight and speak with attendees on their processes bring Asian based departments up to speed with CSR.
Closing words of the event
Richard Bourne (EcoVadis) and Paul Keser (Nexio Projects), together made the closing statements by highlighting the following:
Having spoken with attendees the top 3 takeaways of the event were:
- The scope of sustainable development is bigger than many companies think;
- It is important to continuously act on sustainability and start planning your steps now;
- Finally, it is important to create unity in your supply chain in order to move forward with your sustainability development and journey and get the benefits out of it.
Please do not worry if you missed the event:
If you were not able to attend the 2019 edition, you can always contact one of our colleagues at the Nexio offices to brief you on the event.
Click here to speak with us and discuss this topic.
About the Author(s)
Marc Roodhuyzen de Vries is co-founder and CEO at Nexio Projects.