“Sustainable production … is of paramount importance”

A better tomorrow

Companies are acting now to make our world more sustainable


JANUARY 2022 Industry Perspectives / Text by Toby Waters

The need to implement sustainable practices in all areas of life is becoming more urgent with each passing day. Firms are increasingly working to improve their efforts to protect both our world and the long-term viability of their businesses.

Striving for sustainability

Taking meaningful steps to make a business sustainable, no matter what sector you’re in, requires setting clear, defined goals.

“Part of empowering people and organisations to fulfil their potential is ensuring that they have a planet on which to do it,” says Jeremy Sampson, managing director of leading bilingual recruitment consultancy Robert Walters. “We’re committed to reducing our global carbon emissions by 30% per employee by 2030, and we have two further environmental targets that, when we reach them, will improve energy efficiency and minimise the use of unnecessary consumables.”

As well as protecting the environment, sustainability can take many others forms, explains Dean Schreiber, CEO of Oakwood, a global leader in hospitality management.

“Oakwood’s focus on environmental sustainability seeks to minimise our impact on the environment through initiatives that help manage our energy consumption and carbon footprint,” he says. “In addition, we started an annual ‘Give with Oakwood’ programme two years ago, where we donate food to people in need. It’s a good way for us to give back to our communities.”

Food products firm Puratos aims to achieve greater sustainability by putting its workers first, notes Jean-Pierre Bernardino, general manager of Japan and North-East Asia regional manager.

“As a food manufacturer, sustainable agriculture is crucial for Puratos. Sustainable production of cocoa, in particular, is of paramount importance to us,” says Bernardino. “That’s why we are committed to supporting farmers through our unique Cacao-Trace programme, which provides them with training in farming techniques and additional financial rewards.”

Reasons to improve

As the materials industry uses and reuses metals sustainably, it both helps the environment and improves sustainability in other industries, according to Atsuya Hanazawa, president of Umicore Japan.

“Sustainability is at the heart of Umicore. We use our expertise in materials science to transform ordinary metals into high-performing advanced materials, which enable clean mobility and energy solutions,” he says. “Our closed-loop business model is designed to make a positive environmental and economic impact. Using our high-quality recycling processes, we recover and reuse metals, doing our part to make the circular economy a reality.”

Oakwood also recognises that doing business responsibly can have far-reaching, positive results.

“As a global hospitality company, we are committed to building an inclusive culture that celebrates both what we have in common and our differences,” Schreiber says. “We also believe in conducting business responsibly, which includes localising our outreach so that we can best serve the needs of each Oakwood destination in a way that makes a direct and meaningful impact.”

As Puratos encourages sustainable farming of cacao, it’s not only the environment that benefits, but farmers’ lives and the product itself.

“The two main goals of Cacao-Trace are to provide our customers with superior-tasting chocolate and to enhance farmers’ livelihoods,” Bernardino says. “Promoting environmentally-friendly farming while providing training in mastering the cacao fermentation process leads to more delicious chocolate and, in turn, increases value, which is then shared with farmers.”

Policies for progress

Goals are good, but concrete actions must be taken for any sustainability strategy to succeed. Robert Walters is taking practical steps in several areas, including combatting deforestation and helping the community.

“Last year, we started donating ¥1,000 for every candidate that we successfully place in a new role. This helps to support local organisations and to pave the way for greater sustainability,” Sampson says. “We have also partnered with the World Land Trust to plant one tree for each permanent candidate placement that we make across our business.”

Umicore is dedicated to further improving sustainable production, but it also wants to create a knock-on effect to spread sustainability throughout society.

“We are constantly innovating to increase the performance and cost-effectiveness of battery materials in an effort to accelerate the adoption of electromobility,” Hanazawa says. “These battery materials are produced from ethically and responsibly sourced metals, using processes with a low environmental footprint and powered by green electricity. Our battery materials also integrate metals obtained from battery recycling.”

Businesses that are sustainable are well placed to overcome the challenges of the future — and well placed to shape it, as well.