The Economist’s 8th Annual Sustainability Week!

The Economist 8th Annual Sustainability week image

At Novazure, Woon-Hui and Talitha virtually joined forces from London and Limassol at the Economist’s 8th Annual Sustainability Week event on March 29th. We are thrilled to share our key takeaways from the informative sessions!

Woon-Hui: The decarbonisation agenda should be part of key business strategy – it is a MUST do, not a nice to have. It is not time for discussion anymore, it should just be ACTION. Leaders should not need to defend why they need to do this, it should be a business imperative – licence to operate. I really like how one speaker compares it to Health & Safety. Especially for me coming from an O&G background, where HSSE is a top non-negotiable, and everyone embraces it in their day-2-day work. It becomes a company culture and way of working. It is everyone’s responsibility and everyone gets it! It is not a problem or a special project for an elite team. Organisational capabilities in cultivating the right mindset and behaviour change are fundamental because it drives the kind of innovation that is based on the right value/priorities.

Talitha: Yes, I agree, decarbonisation is an important issue and it is time to take real action. Just like in the case of health and safety, decarbonisation should be a rooted mentality and everyone’s responsibility. Although a change of mindset and mentality is not easy, it is still worth doing because of the level of urgency. Moreover, the benefits it can give to a company are also plentiful. Decarbonisation plans can stimulate innovation, create new market opportunities, and increase energy efficiency (thus lowering costs). I think businesses that take the initiative to undertake a leading role in decarbonisation will be better positioned to establish themselves as industry pioneers, strengthen their brands, and secure their place as global leaders. So, what do you think the industry pioneers need to do to operationalise the decarbonisation mindset?

Woon-Hui: When it comes to operationalising it, it is not about seeing where it fits in the existing models – change it to fit the decarbonisation needs! But it needs to make sense. At the end of the day, there need to be positive returns financially and beyond. The panels provided some good examples of increasing productivity and generating societal and safety benefits all around in the agricultural & consumer goods industries.

Talitha: But I think that financial justification and the ‘how’s are exactly the key challenge for companies to operationalise decarbonisation. A big change in mindset and mentality is not only difficult because of its intangibility but also needs a big commitment of money, time and resources. Leaders might want to take a step back to agree on what it means to ‘decarbonise’ or ‘reach net-zero’ and define measurable operational goals that could help them decarbonise their operations. At the end of the day, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to operationalise the decarbonisation strategy, so it must be assessed considering the specific conditions of the organisation. What other challenges do you think are needed to take into account?

Woon-Hui: Besides the aforementioned points on mindset and organisational capabilities, I concur fully with the following:

  • How to ensure it trickles down and across the value chains and partnerships. One speaker, in particular, used this term which I like: Change local practice via a global partnership (sounds like the HSBC tagline)
  • Using a common language and making it simple. People get confused over what is net-zero vs carbon neutral, and the different targets. It can get technical and deters people from having a proper discussion
  • Standardised and simplified approach when it comes to framework, measurement, reporting and tracking. It should not be such a gargantuan task to just try to make sense of where to start

Talitha: I agree with your points. Standardisation of language and measurement is very important. This can also be an opportunity for industry pioneers to help shape the standard and inspire others to follow their path while increasing their brand identity and position as an industry leader at the same time. 

Woon-Hui: What I thought was really interesting is the session around using AI to accelerate decarbonisation. I know that we can’t run away from AI in the mix in almost everything we do now, but this is probably an area that may become a game changer for many, especially to sort out the supply chain complexities. In my view, companies need digitalisation to scale and digitalisation is one of the key ingredients to spur the decarbonisation cocktail mix.

Talitha: The use of AI is indeed very interesting. Along with the trends of connected-everything and data explosion, AI would be the best solution to automate the processing of big data. With AI, we not only have abundant ingredients but also the tools and means to cook them, turning the ingredients into something more valuable.

Woon-Hui: For sure! There were really a lot of good discussions from the sessions no? And interesting that we both shared a lot of similar reflections and yet focus on different angles as well. It would be great to see you Talitha soon in similar events but in person!

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