Green Business: Responsible Business Summit USA Day 1

Full day, full brain.

I spent today listening to and tweeting about Sustainability progress from leaders representing FedEx, Patagonia, Intel, Lockheed Martin, Campbell Soup, Abbott, Human Rights Watch and others at Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Summit USA conference in New York City.

We talked about the approaches and actions organizations are taking to measure their impact on the earth: tipping points and pressures, risks and opportunities, and thinking long-term in a quarterly dividend world.

A highlight for me today was hearing Bennett Freeman of Calvert Investments say, “Integrated reporting is coming.” Not today or tomorrow, he said to me, but his team has a “solid toehold” on models to integrate corporate responsibility measures with financial reports. So now the challenge shifts to scaling up and creating an environment where integrated reporting becomes pro forma. Investors will expect corporations to provide this richer, more complete picture of their company’s performance in the regular course of business.

Cristina Amorim from Life Technologies gave a tremendous presentation on the results her team has achieved with an all-in aggressive effort to streamline her company’s environmental footprint. The biotech tools company has transformed the traditional linear “take-make-waste” paradigm into a circular lifecycle of reduce, reuse, reclaim, recycle and recreate. Go steal ideas from Life Technologies’ award-winning Sustainability initiatives.

Considering her program’s emphasis on exact measurement and quantifiable results, it caught me off guard when Christina said that Zero Waste¬† doesn’t mean “no waste at all.” Rather than an absolute, Zero Waste is an aspirational goal that is generally accepted by her industry peers as 90 percent diversion from the waste stream.

In this case, ninety percent represents the very best that can be done without creating new problems.

That’s a truth worth keeping in mind.

Considering the overwhelming environmental, social and economic challenges facing the world,¬† we can’t afford to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

After all, doing the very best possible for all concerned is what drives Sustainable Business.

As Ray Anderson put it, “Doing well by doing good.”