European giants tackle green issues

30 January 2013

AMSTERDAM: Major companies such as Unilever, Heineken and Royal DSM are taking an increasingly collaborative approach to sustainability, reflecting the scale of the challenges this issue presents.

These firms all belong to the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, which was formed in 2012 and also has members like KLM, the airline, AkzoNobel, the paints and chemicals group, and Shell, the oil giant.

Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, the FMCG manufacturer, suggested that 1bn people, or around 15% of the world's population, currently use 40% to 50% of the earth's natural resources.

"We consider it our task to rethink our definition of growth to really achieve sustainability, so that nine billion people can live together in peace by 2050."

More specifically, Polman stated that creating a "circular economy" premised upon "reusability" and minimising the destruction of resources and products, was vital to "moving forward".

In keeping with such an objective, Jean-Francois van Boxmeer, chief executive of Heineken, the brewer, argued that collaboration constituted the only way of making progress.

"Both within the supply chain, and among competitors, it's key to share best practices and stimulate peer learning," he said.

Royal DSM, which is active in sectors like health, nutrition and materials, has embraced the idea that "people, planet and profit" are the three primary levers of business.

"We must learn how to do more with less. This requires a different mindset, as we need to deal differently with our planet and natural resources," Feike Sijbesma, its chief executive, said.

"We also need different valuation models for that, so that this type of value creation becomes measurable and visible."

Pieter Jongstra, managing partner at services firm Ernst & Young, another member of the Dutch Sustainable Growth Coalition, was among the representatives of this body at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos.

"There was quite some foreign interest in our coalition as a platform for collaboration," he said.

Data sourced from 4-Traders; additional content by Warc staff