Joshua Ramo, managing director of Kissinger Associates and author of The Age of the Unthinkable, told The Global Summit business leaders had to learn to see the world in a new way, accepting a degree of complexity and unpredictability associated with times of revolution and prolonged upheaval.
Ramo said these changes were analogous to the revolution in physics a century before.
“We used to think in terms of contagion,” said Ramo, “and that there would always be a chance to get in before that last domino fell. But this is trapdoor contagion – everything goes at the same time.” As a consequence, companies had to learn fast how to transcend old views of individual performance and navigate a landscape of rapid systemic change, he said.
Doug McMillan, president and CEO of Wal-Mart International, told The Global Summit customers were neither able nor prepared to pay more for sustainability – so Wal-Mart’s commitments to renewable energy, zero waste and selling sustainable product had to be achieved in a way which enabled people to meet their basic needs.
Progress required collaboration, he said. McMillan described a children’s toy truck which had originally come with 2m of wire to tie the product to its packaging. Working with their supplier, they had managed to reduce this by 90%.
Responding to a question about why Wal-Mart had adopted a high profile environmental policy, McMillan said: “We stepped back and said ‘what if we tried to become a better company, create real change and let the results speak for themselves?’.”
Franck Riboud, CEO of Danone, told delegates how Danone’s reliance on natural resources and its long-standing commitment to sustainable practices had led the company to set bold targets for both environmental impact and productivity improvements.
A companywide commitment to reduce CO²/kg emissions by 30% by 2012 was on track – some 22% had been achieved by the end of 2010 and current year forecasts suggested a further 6-7% by the end of 2011.
Thanks in part to Danone’s investment in mangrove forests in Senegal, Evian business would be entirely CO² neutral by the end of 2011.