Speakers at the Womens Network for a Sustainable Future (October 6 in New York City) confirmed the thrust of Victoria Axelrod's recent post that Sustainability = Innovation. The innovation theme started with keynote Linda Fisher, DuPont's Chief Sustainability Officer and VP, Safety, Health & Environment and continued through an extraordinary panel dialogue that included:
Hye-Won Choi, Senior Vice President, Head of Corporate Governance, TIAA-CREF, and Co-Chair, SEC Investor Advisory Committee
Beth Keck, Senior Director, International Sustainability & Strategy, Wal-Mart Stores
Dr. Sharon Nunes, Vice President, Strategic Growth Initiatives - IBM Green Innovations
Dr. Ponni Subbiah, VP of Global Access Strategy, Pfizer Inc.
In each case innovation is the thrust of these pioneers' work.
i. At TIAA-CREF Hye-Won Choi, is pushing boards to be more open, responsive to shareholder requests and improve environmental practices to reduce long term business risks.
ii. Beth Keck is the guiding force behind Wal-Mart's sustainability initiatives including the Sustainability Summit, Beijing October 2008 amidst financial market turmoil, their Sustainable Product Index and Supplier Questionnaire.
iii. At IBM Dr. Sharon Nunes is charged with identifying and launching new businesses applying IBM's expertise in information technology, materials and processing to solve critical problems around environmental issues.
iv. Dr. Ponni Subbiah,is applying CK Prahalad's The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid principles to create new sustainable business opportunities and revenues for Pfizer in delivering affordable medicines and access to health care to the majority of the world's population currently without.
While innovation for sustainability is essential, notable was the focus on the collaborative approaches needed to get there. All speakers talked of stretching their organizations to create new working relationships especially with NGO's that very often had been protagonists. Wal-Mart's work with suppliers and governments to bring more sustainable products to market illustrates the approach.
Dr. Nunes describes her new business development as "collaborative innovation". IBM's "Big Green Innovations" grew from an Innovation Jam that engaged employees, partners and customers in a 3 day company wide conversation around new opportunities and resulted in a $100 million investment over the next two years to pursue ten new businesses.
As a contributor to The Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook Ch.8 Transorganizational Collaboration and Sustainability Networks I was listening for how each organization collaborated to innovate in support of their sustainability strategy. Clearly each speaker revealed how innovation and collaboration go hand in hand.
~ Jenny Ambrozek