Global Food Summit 2011: developing sustainable practices is key


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.