Future of Green Podcast: Some Corporations Are Really Changing

Sustainability: Can Corporations Really Change?
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Maurice Bechard, director of global environment health & safety at Diversey, and Michael Kobori, vice president for social and environmental sustainability at Levi Strauss & Co, joined a recent Future of Green conference call to talk about their companies' increasingly public sustainability initiatives and what they mean for business operations.

Moderated by Neal Gorenflo, publisher of Shareable Magazine, this conversation is part of the Future of Green, a conference/podcast series co-hosted by Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business Center for Social Innovation with the goal of helping to define the next generation of sustainable business.

Both companies have legacies that support sustainable activities–dating back to the 1930's and their history with SC Johnson for Diversey, and from its 150 years of family ownership at Levi Strauss. Recently, Diversey enunciated an ambitious corporate purpose:  to save lives, protect the planet, transform our industry.  Bechard describes how this purpose is translated into action and what it has meant for sustainability investments and employee relations.

In the case of Levi Strauss & Co., what had historically been a private social consciousness has recently found a more public voice.  Kobori explains that the eye-opener for them was the result of life cycle analysis of a pair of 501 Jeans that showed that the bulk of the environmental impact came after its sale (during washing and drying) or before it was produced (from the agricultural impact of the cotton).  This has lead to an increased focus on stakeholders outside the company–both customers and suppliers.

The executives share stories about how approaches used to assure sustainability affect internal decision-making and employee satisfaction (positive and important!); and explain the challenge of transitioning to an integrated bottom line vs. near-term financial return, and the importance of moving towards sustainable operations for business and society.

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