by Monica Mehta
The last few years have seen a dramatic shift in how business executives view sustainability. According to Sustainability’s Strategic Worth, a global survey from McKinsey and Company, in 2010 just 21 percent of chief executive officers sought to align sustainability with overall business goals and values. The primary reasons for pursuing sustainability initiatives? Managing their company’s reputation and cutting costs topped the list.
Just five years later, McKinsey found that number had more than doubled. “The view of sustainability today is in partnership with the business, not in opposition to the business,” says Oracle Chief Sustainability Officer Jon Chorley. “Sustainability has become mainstreamed. The initiatives are being driven as much by good business practices as they are by altruistic considerations.”
Now, with environmental threats and challenges pressing from many directions, executives are looking for new strategies for managing an organization in an era of climate change, water shortage, carbon restrictions, and consumers’ favorable shift toward sustainable products.
“If you believe that climate change and resource constraints are as serious as I believe they are, then we’re at an ‘all hands on deck’ moment,” says green business strategist Andrew Winston, author of The Big Pivot (Harvard Business Review Press, 2014), which explores how executives can manage their business in an era of environmental, political, and social disruption. “I think we’ve passed the tipping point of business talking about these issues.”
That mentality is now being reflected in real business value. The 2014 Oracle Excellence Awards for Sustainability Innovation recognize companies that use Oracle technology for these efforts. A look at two award winners—Cox Enterprises and Save Water Kenya—showcases best practices for sustainability, in for-profit and nonprofit organizations.Bottom-Line Sustainability
Cox Enterprises—a communications, media, and automotive services company with revenues of more than US$17 billion and approximately 50,000 employees—has an established track record of business success combined with altruism. Through the corporate giving efforts of three of its subsidiaries, Cox Communications, Cox Automotive, and Cox Media Group, the company contributes to efforts in three areas: empowering communities and individuals, preserving the environment, and promoting diversity. Through thoughtful environmental policies, Cox management is working to make the company carbon and water neutral in 25 to 30 years and send zero waste to landfill by 2024.
These efforts are complemented by smart efforts to promote sustainability throughout operations. In 2014, that commitment earned Cox Enterprises an Oracle Excellence Award for Sustainability Innovation. Additionally, Cox Senior Vice President of Finance Lacey Lewis was honored with Oracle’s 2014 Chief Sustainability Officer of the Year award for leading the company’s comprehensive, deep-rooted environmental sustainability program, as well as for her leadership promoting green business among vendors in the Oracle Supplier Hub.
We’re at the mercy of having a stable climate, clean air, clean water, and enough resources to build an economy, and if we threaten that, we threaten our own prosperity.”– Andrew Winston, Author, The Big Pivot
Indeed, Cox’ efforts have a strong connection to Oracle. “Oracle WebCenter Imaging, Oracle iSupplier Portal, Oracle Supplier Network, and Oracle E-Business Suite extensions for Oracle Endeca all contribute significantly to Cox’ automation and efficiency,” says Lewis. “Automating the invoicing and payments process is a key way to gain efficiencies, have better control over what you are doing, and eliminate the use of paper.”
In addition, Oracle Supplier Lifecycle Management helps Cox managers track environmentally preferred purchasing principles that they have incorporated into their supply chain. “These initiatives are helping us meet our sustainability goals, generate cost savings, and inspire employees to identify ways they, too, can lessen their impact,” says Lewis.
Winston says the supply chain is an area that is ripe for change for businesses. “If you look at the footprint of products in the world, the majority sit in the supply chain,” says Winston. “The opportunity to understand and measure impacts, and then to manage them, is remarkable. Supply chain professionals are sitting on a gold mine of more-sustainable practices.”
Cox’ Supplier Sustainability Program is proof of such opportunities. Cox gives preference to suppliers that employ best-in-class sustainable business practices. Through the program, the company set national paper standards for its business locations in a move that management expects to annually save the equivalent of more than 5,040 trees and about 2.5 million gallons of water, as well as eliminating nearly 80 tons of waste. Cox’ nationwide operations now use Forest Stewardship Counsel–certified copy paper from Staples made from 30 percent postconsumer content.
“We’ve saved a lot of energy and dollars doing these projects, and we’ll continue to do so. Our Supplier Sustainability Program has been a great investment in terms of influence,” says Lewis. “Everything we do, we ask ourselves, ‘How can we do this in a way that’s good for the environment?’ We’ve found that asking ourselves this question is good for the environment and the bottom line.”
Percentage of company leaders who say their companies seek to align sustainability with their overall business goals, mission, or values—up from just 21 percent who said so in 2010 (Source: 2014 McKinsey global survey)
“The Cox Enterprises story is a great example of what we are seeing in forward-looking enterprises today,” says Oracle’s Chorley. “Leveraging technology combined with sound business initiatives to deliver a triple bottom-line benefit: to profits, to planet, and to people. We were very pleased to recognize Lacey and all of Cox Enterprises through our Sustainability Innovation awards program.”Objective: Sustainability
Sometimes, sustainability is within an organization’s charter itself—as in the case of Safe Water Kenya, which exists to meet the need for safe water in that country. Contaminated or unsafe water is the leading cause of death and illness in Africa; Safe Water Kenya’s technology builds a layer of “good bacteria” on top of a container of sand and gravel that feeds on the bad bacteria in the water that is poured in. The natural system cleans about 95 percent of the bacteria and 100 percent of parasites, and it requires little to no maintenance. The organization has installed about 2,500 filters to date.
In order to receive grant funding, the organization had to meet stringent reporting requirements. It had to provide a lengthy survey, filled out in every home, school, or health clinic where a filter was installed, including information such as GPS coordinates, photos, and signatures. Doing this manually would have required hours of manual work in remote areas.
With the help of consulting company mFrontiers, Safe Water Kenya was able to instead use a mobile app, provided by the mFinity Enterprise Mobility Management Platform (EMMP), to collect the required survey information. This platform, powered by Oracle technology, has also enabled Safe Water Kenya to increase installation productivity. Both mFrontiers and Safe Water Kenya were awarded a 2014 Oracle Excellence Award for Sustainability Innovation for their work.
“The EMMP has become one of the most important tools that we have, and the results are there,” says Don Arnold, executive director of Safe Water Kenya. “The last time I was in Kenya, I visited a health clinic that we work with, and the manager had a bar chart on the wall that measured diarrheal disease. I asked him to show me at what point our filtration system went into his village—and it was from that point that the bars started going down. It’s so gratifying because it’s making a huge difference in that region.”
Chorley says more and more nonprofit organizations have used technologies such as Oracle’s to further their strategic objectives—and in much the way for-profit organizations do. The work these organizations do makes good business sense for the larger economy as well. According to a recent PwC report, ongoing infrastructure projects in Kenya could accelerate the pace of economic growth by 3 percent yearly and lift the country to a higher middle-income status.
“We’re very happy to help and work with nonprofits,” says Chorley. “They’ve got to run a business, and our solutions can aid their efforts. I often say that the first rule of sustainability for any business or organization is to stay in business. Solutions from Oracle help make that happen.”Oracle’s Take: “Built-In, Not Bolt-On”
Embedding sustainability into strategy and operations has always been Oracle’s guiding philosophy for sustainability. Rather than creating separate groups or products that try to tackle environmental issues separately, Oracle integrates the issue into every line of business.
Part of the overall Oracle Excellence Awards program, the award for Sustainability Innovation is a way to highlight and recognize organizations, companies, and individuals who are using Oracle technology in innovative ways to improve their sustainability performance. Through these awards, Oracle management hopes to share ideas and to stimulate the development of sustainability best practices. For more information, visit oracle.com/green.
“Sustainability is everyone’s business,” says Chorley. “We think about product recycling within the teams that deal with our reverse logistics. We think about smart transportation within the teams that deal with transportation. We think about real estate facilities considerations, such as energy and water consumption reduction, within the real estate and facilities teams.”
This basic philosophy translates into what Oracle delivers to the market. “Built-in, not bolt-on—that is our approach both as an organization and from a product perspective,” says Chorley.
In the future, Chorley predicts, more and more companies will follow Oracle’s lead and view sustainability as a business partner rather than just an operational cost.
“We run a good, efficient business, and sustainability is part of that equation. It helps us focus on waste reduction and on efficiency,” says Chorley. “In the end, all of those things are good for the environment and for business.”
Winston says it’s imperative for business leaders to wake up to the reality of the changing environment. “We’re at the mercy of having a stable climate, clean air, clean water, and enough resources to build an economy. And if we threaten that, we threaten our own prosperity.”
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