Bernd Jan Sikken leads multi-stakeholder initiatives at The World Economic Forum (WEF) that aim to find solutions for fundamental issues such as demographic shifts and environmental sustainability. As an Associate Director, Sikken plays a role in the independent organization that is committed to improving the state of the world by engaging leaders in partnerships to shape global, regional and industry agendas.
What are good examples of sustainable business initiatives?
“There are many good examples. An interesting one to highlight is Interface, a modular carpet manufacturer. Interface has undergone a major transformation while maintaining a clear business focus. The company is well on its way to realize its Mission Zero commitment to eliminate any negative environmental impact by 2020. Chairman Ray Anderson initiated this journey to – what he calls - Mount Sustainability in 1994. Interface has defined seven fronts of sustainability, including waste elimination, use of renewable energy, and closing the loop. Also financial institutions such as Rabobank, APG and HSBC offer powerful examples. Through their sustainable investment strategies, they help recognizing and rewarding companies that move society towards sustainability.”
How has sustainable entrepreneurship taken shape within your organization?
“As part of our mission to improve the state of the world, we work with leaders from governments, business and NGOs to address a broad range of global challenges. We currently have a portfolio of 33 multi-stakeholder initiatives of which more than a third focus on driving environmental sustainability. Furthermore, our Annual Meeting of the New Champions in September 2010 will focus exclusively on sustainability. The program centers on how to increase energy efficiency, lower carbon emissions, develop green technology, and rebuild basic infrastructure. We expect that over 1,500 leaders from business, politics, science and technology will participate.”
Who in the organization should be responsible for building sustainability strategies?
“I believe that, in the next decade, most companies will fully integrate sustainability into their core business strategies. I also believe that, in order to transform effectively, corporate sustainability needs to be a broad, collective responsibility within companies. Still, top management plays an important role as it not only needs to make sure that sustainability is fully integrated into the business strategy, but also needs to set the example and provide the institutional support.”
What are reasonable sustainability objectives for most businesses?
“The objectives depend on the type of organization and industry. What’s important is that companies set bold, yet realistic objectives. Keeping it simple is another imperative: define a select number of well understood targets instead of many. Furthermore, sustainability requires a lifecycle approach with consideration of the environmental impact across the whole value chain. Shifting the burden is relatively easy; reducing it collectively is a bigger challenge!”
How sustainable are you?
“The pursuit of a sustainable lifestyle is a journey wherein you constantly learn and discover how you can do better. For me, it took off with simple choices such as eating less meat, buying more local and biological food, and recycling and reusing as much as possible. Just like corporate sustainability can impact a company’s bottom line, a sustainable lifestyle may also reward consumers with other advantages such as saving money and healthier living.”
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