What is sustainability and why does it matter?

Greater Cleveland business leaders share their thoughts in advance of the Sustainability Summit

By Laura DeMarco

Sustainability. It’s more than more than a buzzword. It’s the way of the future — an imperative market trend impacting large and small businesses in B2B and consumer markets. Companies of all sizes are rethinking their path forward as they deal with integral questions such as: What impact will ESG reporting requirements have on small and medium-sized businesses? What business and innovation opportunities do ESG requirements present? How can Greater Cleveland businesses develop approaches towards carbon neutrality and net zero goals?

These topics and much more will be the subjects of GCP’s first Sustainability Summit on January 24 at Huntington Convention Center. This inaugural event will bring together representatives of publicly- traded reporting companies, SMEs and service companies for an educational discussion focusing on ESG issues that affect business and the community.

In advance of the Summit, we asked several speakers and business leaders to share their thoughts on why sustainability is important for everyone, why the summit is valuable and what attendees will gain from the inaugural event.

Read on for their thoughts and click here for more information and to register for the Summit.

Chris Laszlo, Ph.D., Professor of Organizational Behavior — Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University, Summit Keynote Speaker.

What topics will you be focusing on in your keynote, “Sustainability — Trends, Challenges and Opportunities”?

Sustainability and ESG are becoming important sources of value creation. Yet corporate initiatives often focus only on doing less harm or small incremental steps. Too many are now seen as greenwashing. Business innovations that integrate sustainability and ESG into core business strategy, with a clear assessment of how significant value is created for shareholders and stakeholders, are essential to business advantage.

What are some key takeaways you hope people get from the Summit ?

Sustainability and ESG are rapidly becoming drivers of business innovation. The marketplace is moving from primarily disclosure and risk management to value capture. It’s a way for businesses to reduce costs, differentiate their products and services, motivate employees and enhance their brands. Leading companies are acquiring the skill set and tools to integrate sustainability and ESG into core business strategy as a “must have” rather than a “nice to have.”

Elizabeth Grove, Chief Sustainability Officer, Lubrizol, Panelist: Company Benefits of Sustainable Practices

Why is Lubrizol participating in this Summit?

At Lubrizol, sustainability is really “in our chemistry.” By that we mean that sustainability is really a holistic function. It’s about connecting to Lubrizol’s the stakeholders, including the communities where we work and live. We started in Cleveland in 1928 and have witnessed the resilience of this community. We know that the sustainability of an organization or a region requires input and impact from many participants. We also believe that there are many other organizations like Lubrizol that are looking for a region that will support their sustainability as an organization. We absolutely believe that NEO can be the kind of ecosystem that supports and transforms the sustainability of the organizations that choose to be here and we are excited to contribute to that vision by participating in this summit.

Why is sustainability important to your business?

The sustainability of any organization requires that organization to pay close attention to its stakeholders: employees, customers, suppliers, commercial partners, government and communities. Our employees want to join and work for an organization that is operating in a fair, equitable and responsible way. Our customers, many of whom are sustainability leaders like Unilever, L’oreal, J &J and P & G understand that what Lubrizol does directly impacts their sustainability and they expect us to help them with their goals. This is business critical for Lubrizol; sustainability is a commercial imperative. Our suppliers and commercial partners understand that Lubrizol is serious about reducing it corporate carbon footprint and operating ethically, and we expect them to help us with these objectives. The communities where we are privileged to operate our facilities have every right to expect that we will do so in a safe and respectful way. The sustainability of Lubrizol depends upon our attention to all of the needs of these stakeholders.

To the business community?

Trust in the business community necessarily depends upon all of us working together to help reach our goals. The creation of an environment and regional culture of trust and respect will attract new and exciting businesses and sustain those that have built and maintained that foundation here in NEO for decades. Creating an ecosystem that supports organizations that are operating in a sustainable way is a win for everyone by creating new and exciting jobs and professions, improving the quality of life for communities and providing needed support to keep the business community vibrant.

Jenita McGowanManager Global Sustainability & ESG Excellence — Eaton, Panelist: Meeting Stakeholder Expectations and Targets

Why is Eaton participating in this Summit?

Improving quality of life and the environment is core to Eaton’s company mission. And community engagement and learning are embedded into our company values. This summit is a great opportunity to contribute to a dialogue on sustainability and to help to accelerate actions from the business community that will make a difference in the world.

Why is sustainability important to your business? To the business community?

The world is experiencing some of the most important secular growth trends that we will see in our lifetime: the explosive rise of digitalization and the energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables — changes being driven by unprecedented growth in electrification and climate change. Stakeholders are calling for nations and businesses to work together to address global climate change. Human-induced climate change has wrought observable impacts to people, infrastructure and ecosystems, including increases in global temperatures, more frequent heatwaves, extreme precipitation in some regions and droughts in others. We understand the urgency of the climate emergency and have developed science-based greenhouse gas reduction targets consistent with the limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At Eaton, we power solutions for global change in a world that needs smarter, more efficient and more sustainable power management solutions. Companies and communities alike depend on Eaton to solve some of the planet’s toughest power management challenges. That’s a responsibility we take seriously — because we owe it to future generations to leave the world a safer and more sustainable place to live. As one of the world’s leading global power management companies, we provide solutions to use power more efficiently. We empower homeowners to make smart power use decisions — and we develop power management solutions for utilities, municipalities and businesses to reduce their environmental impact with more energy-efficient products or by harnessing low-carbon and renewable resources like solar, wind and hydroelectric power.

What are you hoping to gain from the Summit?

We’re here to teach and to learn. As part of our company mission to improve quality of life and the environment, it is important to stay current on sustainability and to also demonstrate thought leadership to others. In order for Eaton and others to do their part in meeting global sustainability goals, we all need an educated, engaged and aligned value chain. This summit is designed to advance both large companies and smaller businesses at different maturity levels to help them all take action and stay competitive. This summit is a good opportunity to listen to the priorities and challenges of our peers, customers and suppliers.

Dylan Beach, Sustainability Senior Manager — GOJO, Panelist: What Your Customers Need You to Know:

Why is GOJO participating in this Summit?

As a company that has been formally engaged in sustainability for over a decade, GOJO wants to support other companies in the region to increase their focus on sustainability. We have initiatives that rely on our vendors elevating their sustainability performance.

Why is sustainability important to your business? To the business community?

Solving sustainability challenges aligns with GOJO’s purpose, vision and values. Sustainability is a business imperative, and increasingly, companies need to engage in sustainability to be competitive. Sustainability challenges are complex, system-wide issues that require partnerships between diverse members of the business community to drive real progress.

What are you hoping to gain from the Summit?

GOJO hopes to learn more about large customer expectations for ESG reporting for private companies in their supply chains. We also hope some of our vendors will be able to elevate their ESG performance after attending the summit.

Peter Farah, Vice President, ESG, Deputy General Counsel and Assistant Secretary at The J.M. Smucker Company, member GCP Sustainability Leaders Group

Why is The J.M. Smucker Company participating in this Summit?

At The J.M. Smucker Co., we believe success is driving business growth while also helping those associated with our Company thrive. And, for 125 years we have done just that. This successful foundation allows us to positively impact the lives of the employees and business partners connected to our Company as well as the communities and planet we all share. This is the expectation we hold ourselves to every single day because we truly believe we only “Thrive Together.”

Why is sustainability important to your business? To the business community?

Our company exists as part of a global social and public environment, and our continued success and sustainability are dependent on the success and sustainability of the local, regional, national and even global communities of which we are a part.

What are you hoping to gain from the Summit?

The Summit is a wonderful opportunity for the Greater Cleveland community to gather, work, and learn from one another about sustainability issues. We look forward to sharing our progress and challenges, learning from others, and also making connections to hopefully collaborate on future opportunities that will benefit our community.

Nicole StikaSenior Business Developer — Sustainability Solutions — WorldKinect, Panelist: Meeting Stakeholder Expectations and Targets

Why is World Kinect participating in this Summit?

World Kinect’s deep commitment to sustainability is reflected not only in our own efforts, but how we are supporting companies globally in today’s fast pace of change and a variety of pressures. We look forward to engaging with like-mind peers, and to share market intel that advances the voluntary ESG work organizations have done and are doing. Lastly, to offer knowledge on key market issues, drivers, risks and opportunities to support strategic decision-making to help them move from ambition to action. With so many more companies beginning to track and document their ESG impact, it is no longer enough for a company to simply say it — savvy consumers, clients and stakeholders expect proof.

Why is sustainability important to your business? To the business community?

Business growth is required for any organization’s survival, yet sustainability is a necessity for long-term profitability. Incoming SEC regulation, the Inflation Reduction Act, and mounting stakeholder pressure is increasing the momentum, ensuring that action on sustainability accelerates despite the current, difficult climate in which businesses operate in. Even if a company is not yet ready, there is plenty they can do to prepare. At the very least, companies should be identifying the ESG issues that are most important to their stakeholders, reviewing their supply chain to determine vendors’ commitment to ESG, evaluating their carbon footprint, and getting the conversation started with their management team and employees.

What are you hoping to gain from the Summit?

Reality remains that reaching 2030 and 2050 targets for carbon reduction will take extraordinary cooperation, effort and innovation. World Kinect hopes to gain a variety of perspectives on how to align with other organizations’ sustainability aspirations to develop and support the advancement of their ESG strategies and reporting commitments to accelerate the clean energy transition.

Resources

Weatherhead’s Chris Laszlo to provide keynote address for Greater Cleveland Partnership’s first Sustainability Summit | Weatherhead School of Management | Case Western Reserve University

Greater Cleveland Partnership’s All In vision for a Great Region on a Great Lake has five key priorities: Dynamic Business, Abundant Talent, Inclusive Opportunity, Appealing Community and Business Confidence. All of our work ties back to these values. This story relates to Dynamic Business and Appealing Community.