This content is brought to you in partnership with Sustainable Brands.
Sustainable Brands hosted its eighth annual New Metrics conference at the Loews Philadelphia Hotel from Nov. 18-20. More than 300 professionals from over 250 companies participated in the lively three-day conference, which is exclusively focused on tools and strategies for measuring and reporting impact.
The intimate conference provided unique opportunities for attendees to connect directly with leaders in impact measurement, including Evan Harvey, Nasdaq’s global head of sustainability; Mark Kaye, senior vice president and CFO of Moody’s; and Libby Bernick, head of sustainability at Morningstar.
Here are a few of Karma’s key takeaways from New Metrics ‘19:
A business’ public perception can be a tangible impact if evaluated strategically.
In a plenary session on Tuesday morning, Peter Jones, head of sustainability analytics & impact at IKEA Group, broke down how IKEA views public perception as a type of impact.
When Jones shifted from pure business performance into sustainability measurement at IKEA, he realized that while the company was tracking its impact on people and the planet, it was only measuring how that affected profits and sales.
“I realized we were measuring our impact on our outputs, so we adapted our theory of change at IKEA,” Jones said. “We said, okay. We measure our impact on performance today. Let’s also measure the impact on our value and the value we can generate.”
From there, IKEA Group implemented what it calls “the Four P’s” — people, planet, profit and perception. Though perception can be a bit abstract in terms of metrics, Jones suggested that companies not be hindered by metrics that may seem impossible to measure within their existing strategies.
“Don’t wait for perfection. Look at what you can already measure, look at what you’ve got, and get going with something,” Jones said. “You need some quick and small wins.”
Pressure to become more sustainable has become a bottom-up demand.
Companies are no longer deciding to align their businesses with sustainability purely because of executive decisions. As the climate crisis gains more mainstream attention, employees and consumers are increasingly placing pressure on businesses to step up to address it.
Brands’ bottom lines are starting to feel the pressure of consumers who are choosing to boycott companies not delivering on sustainability promises. There’s also an underlying concern that millennial and Generation Z employees will leave their jobs if their values don’t align with those of their employers.
Companies noted that while the sense of urgency is definitely a pressure, they’re largely excited by the liberties the push gives them to take more aggressive steps toward positive initiatives, such as carbon removal projects or new product lines made of higher levels of sustainable materials.
The ecosystem of impact measurement tools is a mess — but that’s okay.
As sustainability goes mainstream, the already complex constellation of measurement tools is becoming even more crowded. However, the fact that there are so many options signals that a more standardized solution is of crucial importance to the industry.
A variety of tools for measuring a company’s impact are already available from various sides of the business world, including frameworks from professional firms like Boston Consulting Group, Ernst & Young, and PwC, educational institutions like MIT and startups like Valutus.
A session on Tuesday titled “Adding Pieces to the ‘Total Impact’ Puzzle: Contributions to SDGs, Benefits of Circularity Initiatives, Business-Unit Scorecards and More” explored a variety of solutions from different sectors, including banking, automotive, food and chemical manufacturing.
“Don’t wait for perfection. Look at what you can already measure, look at what you’ve got, and get going with something. You need some quick and small wins.”
In the session, Daniel Aronson, founder of the impact measurement startup Valutus, suggested that when choosing a framework, attendees properly assess the credibility and usability of the tool, as well as determine how dynamic and catalytic a tool can be to a company’s impact. He also warned companies to avoid naivety about what a tool is actually doing.
“You have to kind of be brutally honest when you’re looking at all these other layers and make sure that you capture them,” Sharon Basel, General Motors’ senior manager of sustainability added. “It’s about considering all the risks and all the opportunities if you want to look at [impact] from a long-term value perspective.”
Sustainable Brands, the presenter of New Metrics, is a strategic partner of Karma.