How can businesses not only reduce their carbon footprint, but even manage to go “carbon negative”? And why is a thriving economy no contradiction to a healthy ecosystem? Our make_shift speakers prove: we have the means, the human abilities, the technology, and the resources to tackle climate crisis and change course! Meet Geanne Van Arkel, Stefano Venier, Martin Stuchtey and Chad Frischmann and learn more about their innovative business models and personal tool kits for a sustainable future!
Meet Geanne Van Arkel
Geanne VAN ARKEL is Head of Sustainable Development at Interface and one of our speakers at make_shift in Alpbach this year. As one of the first companies to publicly commit to sustainability, Interface is poised to reach its goal to become a restorative company by 2020. After this Mission Zero® their next step is Climate Take Back™. In this project Interface aims at going carbon negative and creating a climate fit for life:
Can you provide us with a brief overview of Interface and the company’s quest for Mission Zero?
At Interface we’re convinced a fundamental change needs to happen in our global response to climate change. We need to stop just thinking about how to limit the damage caused by climate change and start thinking about how to create a climate fit for life. After decades of hard work, Interface is poised to reach our Mission Zero® goals by 2020. Climate Take Back™ is our new mission and we want to share it with the world. We commit to running our business in a way that creates a climate fit for life—and we call on others to do the same.
Out of the many approaches there are, such as Blue Economy, Natural Step etc., how much of these guiding principles are you able to incorporate at Interface?
Paul Hawken has inspired us back in the nineties to change course with his book The Ecology of Commerce and more recently again with his Project Drawdown. He introduced us to both Janine Benyus from Biomimicry and Karl Henrik Robert from The Natural Step. These guiding principles, learning from nature, applying the Life’s Principles, and working within the planetary boundaries while enabling people to fulfil their basic needs, we summarized in 7 Fronts. These fronts have been guiding us in the past 25 years.
Sustainability is your daily business at Interface. How do you inspire sustainable behaviour in your personal life?
It is all about the power of one. Through working for Interface, I learned everyone can make a difference, so can I. When you look at the Project Drawdown solutions switching to a plant-based-rich diet is the number three in reducing our global carbon footprint. I have been eating mainly vegetarian for over 25 years, invested in solar panels and try to travel consciously. I feel that everyone has the possibility to find his or her way to contribute to supporting a climate fit for life!
To stay competitive and secure a spot in the circular economy, business transformation takes center stage. To achieve such transformation, what needs to change?
Be ambitious, our Mission Zero goal; becoming a restorative company, focussing on having positive impact, while working hard to eliminate any negative impact we might have we have become more creative and innovative, and ofcourse a higher purpose is also reflected in a companies culture and therefor’ist values. We have raised the bar with Climate Take Back, our goal to become a regenerative company and this has already inspired new ideas, flooring solutions with even a negative carbon foot print, like our Circuit Bac Green backing and working on factories that are functioning as a forest. Imagine if that would be the goal for everything we design, make, build and construct in this world!
Meet Stefano Venier
Stefano Venier is the CEO of Hera S.p.A. and one of our speakers at make_shift in Alpbach. His background includes working for a petrochemical company yet now he promotes a more sustainable way of doing business: under his leadership Hera S.p.A has become a frontrunner of the Circular Economy. We asked him how he manages to balance a busy CEO life with the values he stands for:
Can you elaborate on the principle of “shared value” and why companies increasingly (re)build business models around this concept?
Often and often Companies are required and called by civil society and by some financial investors to regain “a social role” and take the lead in the fight against some of the most worrying threats to our planet, namely the climate change, the resources depletion, or social inequalities. Governments and institutions have not fully played their role, as they were locked in a ‘tit for tat’ game, with no winners and a lot of room for opportunistic behavior and free-riding.
Thus, most of the stakeholders are aligned in asking for more commitment and engagement by reputable companies, and we are ready to play our role and lead this shift. As Gruppo Hera we have introduced the CSV – Creating Shared Value – as a core purpose in the corporate strategy, to guarantee a sustainable development in the long term. It’s a matter of combining the company development with the perspective of the call to action underlined by the relevant SDGs that represent the ultimate benefits for the society and the environment. Properly shared with stakeholders, this perspective of our activities has helped our workers and stakeholders to fully understand the way we want to be a modern “YOUtility”: a new way in managing and delivering the services with the joint and shared purpose of preserving the environment.
“Lead by example” – how has your belief in the concept of shared value shaped your work as CEO at Hera?
My task to spread the CSV concept within Gruppo Hera was made easier as we had a long habit in promoting sustainability in our activities. Nevertheless, the CSV was a new concept and it underlined our commitment to choose those actions able to couple the generation of margins with a growing positive impact on our stakeholders’ territory. Therefore, as CEO I started my task by introducing CSV to all our employees and to inspire them with the CSV as our new “Why”. Their reaction was remarkable: having a clear understanding of the positive impact of our activities on the society as a whole increased everyone’s commitment and awareness. Then, we introduced CSV in our reporting, planning activities, rewarding framework, and our shareholders’ and investors’ feedback was one of great appreciation and interest. I have been personally engaged in promoting the importance of a balance between business and society from the very beginning, as the mountain territory I come from taught me how a balance between behavior and nature is the key for a win-win solution.
What actions do you take to keep the balance between a busy CEO life and reducing your carbon footprint?
Everyone’s carbon footprint matters, a CEO has to lead by example in this respect as well. I can mention some simple behavior everyone can adapt to as well: paying most attention on sorting waste properly, travelling by train the most (as far as possible!) and using e-mobility in the city, choosing zero-Km food and drinking tap water for my personal canteen (that is always with me), keep best energy efficient house, reducing paper prints and going for digital and for video-conf as much as possible, and always ask myself what is the most responsible way to do any single thing.
Stay tuned to meet Martin Stuchtey and Chad Frischmann next week!
Find out more about make-shift here.