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Rival businesses should talk more and agree standards in the non-competitive areas of sustainability to improve the chances of making real progress, an audience of sustainability experts heard.
Speaking at the Responsible Business Summit in London yesterday, Geoff Mackey, head of corporate sustainability at chemical company BASF, advocated the simple act of talking. He proposed with such a wide range of potential metrics in the area of sustainability, companies should work to identify where they can collaborate without gaining a competitive edge.
Mackey said: “We would suggest that the starting point is to talk to people and other companies about non-competing standards. Get people together and say, ‘we’ll you show you ours, if you show us yours’. And then you can work out what you’re not going to compete on. That moves you forward and creates a virtuous circle of conversation.”
He suggested a primary challenge in getting companies to collaborate on sustainability is actually agreeing on what it is. He picked out worker safety, the environmental impact of supply chains and products, and job creation as three important but separate topics within sustainability.
Addressing the audience that was composed of senior sustainability practitioners at companies from across the globe he said: “If we started that conversation here, we could spend a long time agreeing what sustainability actually is.”