As a graduate student at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies my days are filled with classes, reading assignments and group projects. With all the school work, it’s not always easy to get out and learn directly from those who put the theory into practice every day. Fortunately, my Business and the Environment Consulting Clinic this semester has allowed me to do just that, taking me out of the classroom and into the corporate offices of Diageo, a leading premium drinks business.
As part of this course, Diageo’s Global Environmental Manager, Roberta Barbieri, has asked two colleagues and me to help research what the next generation of environmental sustainability goals for the industry might look like. Like many businesses, Diageo has set impressive 2015 environmental sustainability targets around carbon, water and waste, and has made great progress toward reaching them.
Most of these targets relate to the company’s direct operations. As stakeholders continue to demand greater transparency, however, leadership companies are beginning to establish targets for environmental issues from across the value chain. Diageo is one of these companies and wants to ensure that its programs aim to meet these expectations.
To support Diageo in this area, my colleagues and I are benchmarking Diageo’s current environmental targets and analyzing those of other companies in the food, beverage and retail sectors. To learn about other innovative ways to set targets and future sustainability trends we also spoke to corporate sustainability experts from NGOs, consulting firms and academia.
Our project deliverable will be an analysis of industry-leading environmental targets for the beverage supply chain. Throughout my research process I have wondered how other companies go about setting sustainability targets. After meeting some of NAEM’s members at the Forum in Tucson this past fall, I know that many of you are experts in corporate sustainability. You may also be responsible for setting your company’s environmental targets, so I thought I would pose some questions to you all that I’ve been thinking about:
- Do most companies conduct a risk assessment or materiality analysis to discern which environmental areas are most critical for target setting?
- What matters most when it comes to environmental sustainability targets: The feasibility of the target? The reputational benefit the target may bring? The environmental benefit the target spurs? The cost savings a target could help bring about?
- Does partnering with an NGO help a company develop stronger targets and metrics?
- Are absolute targets always better than relative ones?