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Learn How Leading Companies Are Using Their Business and Technology as a Force for Good – Disruption Forum Sustainability Expert Roundup

In September, Disruption Forum Sustainability brought together leading environmental, economic, and social sustainability experts from around the world.

This unique event features inspirational speakers who are changing the world through their work in areas like:

  • Empowering the underprivileged through digital.
  • Taking action to achieve carbon neutrality.
  • Preventing deforestation and replacing it with sustainable industry.
  • Using public policy regulations to bring us closer to a sustainable future.
  • Supporting marginalized communities with innovation hubs.
  • Championing sustainable finance.

Netguru hosted the event in partnership with B Lab Europe. A leader in economic systems change, B Lab certifies companies that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance. Its community includes over 3,500 Certified B Corporations, and Netguru is proud to be one of them. 

We received almost 600 signups, with attendees tuning in around the world – from Peru, Chile, and Brazil to Senegal, Japan, and New Zealand. On the day, more than four thousand people viewed live on social media, plus over 250 participated in panels, and the feedback was excellent. 

Across 12 sessions, more than 20 speakers shone a spotlight on the amazing work their businesses and organizations are doing to promote sustainability. The day was jam-packed with practical information and advice for companies at all stages of their sustainability journeys. Here are some of the key insights that came from the event. 

Achieving carbon neutrality

In ‘Delivering a More Sustainable Future. The Story of Delivery Hero,’ Jeff Oatham, Director of Sustainability at Delivery Hero, revealed that the company aims to become carbon neutral globally by the end of 2021. “We want to leave the world in a better place than when we started out,” he said. 

Jeff outlined the roadmap that the company is following to make progress against its goals.

“First, we have to measure our footprint. Second, we want to take action quickly, and in that sense, we are carbon offsetting first, then we will look at putting in place reduction programs – for us, offsetting is certainly not an end goal, but we want those emissions addressed. And the third is on a region-by-region rollout, so last year, we measured and offset our European operations. This year we're doing Europe and Latin America. And then next year we'll be rolling it out to our businesses in the Middle East and Asia Pacific.”

Jeff also had some valuable tips for other companies looking to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint.

“I think I would pull out four,” he said. “So the first is don't be afraid to be bold. The second is to use international standards like the Greenhouse Gas Protocol because that allows all of us to do things in a standardized way. The third is to be led by the data, but also consider other inputs. And the fourth is to resource it appropriately.”

jeff oatham delivery hero

Defeating climate change

Kevin Conrad, Executive Chairman at Coalition for Rainforest Nations, chatted with Karolina Długosz, Sustainability Lead at Netguru in ‘Tech For Good by Netguru: Sharing Skills for a Better Tomorrow.’ 

Kevin explained how his organization is training countries to measure the carbon value of their forests and create a commercial market for trading the carbon credits that they produce. “We can’t defeat climate change without saving rainforests – it’s just impossible,” he said.

Kevin highlighted how tech giants, such as Microsoft, are carbon footprinting and have pledged to become carbon neutral going back to the day they were founded.

“They are doing two things,” he explained. “They're investing in renewable energy going forward. And they're buying credits going backward. So the whole idea is you buy credits only for the emission reductions that you can't do yourself. First, you have to do the emission reductions, and only what you can't do, you buy credits to support developing countries doing the same."

“And it’s important to realize that even if Europe and the United States went to zero, we still haven't solved the climate problem in India, China, Papua New Guinea, all the other countries that aren't doing the same. And that's why this partnership is really important. We have to get emission reductions on both sides of the economic divide in order to succeed,” he said.

Sustainability is no longer a ‘nice-to-have’

In ‘Sustainability Emerges as a Key Transformational Driver. Why and How are Banks Changing?’, Ulrich Hoyer, Partner at zeb consulting, talked through the company’s recent report on the financial services sector.

According to Ulrich, more than a third of consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental and social impact of the companies they choose to do business with, and one in two are willing to switch to providers that share their values on sustainability. 

He said, “They are willing to pay higher prices not only for fair traded food but also for financial services products, and from this learning, we think there is a huge positive opportunity for existing players in the industry to change more towards sustainable offerings.”

Ulrich Hoyer zeb consulting

A similar discussion came up in ‘Sustainable Finance Going Beyond ESG – How to Recover from the COVID-19 Crisis?’ The session, which was hosted by Katie Hill, CEO of B Lab Europe, included a conversation with Marilou van Golstein Brouwers, Impact Advisor, and Independent Board Member, Chair of B Lab Europe, and Philippe Zaouati, CEO at Mirova.

“I would not underestimate the power of ordinary people,” said Marilou. “The younger generation, specifically, are simply demanding different types of products that are more aligned with the vision they have for their future growth or with their values. So it's because of them that these private wealth banks are now changing into impact investing, their clients will hold them accountable. There is a lot to do for all of us. We are all investors in a certain way, through our pensions or our savings, we can all play a role.”

Marilou van Golstein Brouwers b lab europe

On the flip side, companies that don’t embrace sustainability risk losing market share to those that do. In Ulrich’s words, “If you fail to embrace sustainability, you risk sustained failure.” 

Small differences matter

Esra'a Al Shafei, Founder of Majal, spoke with Karolina about her organization’s work to amplify underrepresented voices in ‘Empowering the Underprivileged Through Digital.’ Majal has an ecosystem of platforms that aim to give communities in the Middle East, and beyond, freedom of expression and access to information. 

Esra'a talked about how platforms don’t have to be big to have power and impact for marginalized communities and underrepresented voices.

“We are told by the tech industry, and also by foundations, that to have an impact, you have to have millions of users. And that's not true,” she said. “In fact, it's a dangerous narrative, because everyone builds to reach that type of metric, rather than building to actually have a positive influence on people's lives.”

Esra'a Al Shafei majal

“All of our platforms are over 12 years old, and we really take our time building them. We do our best to secure these tools, to grow it slowly, to understand what our users want. But most importantly, to really reach the right audiences and make sure that we're making a positive difference in their lives, as well as serving a real need,” she said.

Collaboration is the key to success

The event did a tremendous job of showcasing the amazing things that organizations are doing to positively impact society and the environment. But one of the key messages that came through in almost every session was the importance of collaboration, forming partnerships, and pulling together to be successful.  

“For the change that we need, no one can achieve this on their own. Now more than ever, we need cooperation, and this really is the time to move from competition to mutual aid,” said Marilou van Golstein Brouwers.

And in the words of Kevin Conrad, “We can do this. We know what to do. We know how to do it. Climate change is a problem we can solve – we’ve shown how to do it in rainforests, it’s possible to repeat this in every other sector. What we need is everyone working together, but take hope, take faith, we can defeat this.”

Kevin Conrad coalition for rainforest nations

For the full set of recordings from Disruption Forum Sustainability, sign up here.

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