On Friday, November 6, 2020, MBS students were treated to a special panel event—The Sustainability Landscape Across Industries—a virtual presentation featuring leading sustainability experts across a spectrum of industries, including pharmaceuticals, food science / manufacturing, personal care product manufacturing, and energy. Co-hosted by Abbe Rosenthal, MA, PCC and Edward J. Linky, Esq., Senior Energy and Climate Advisor for the U.S. EPA Region 2 in New York, the event was moderated by Rutgers alumna Allison Dowd, who currently serves as the senior corporate sustainability manager for the Environmental Defense Fund. Mr. Linky regularly shares his extensive expertise via MBS's Fundamentals of Sustainability: The Practitioner Perspective—from Concepts to Transactions course, which he instructs.
Panelists spoke about their personal work experience, discussed sustainability efforts in their respective companies, and answered questions posed by students within the MBS Sustainability concentration and non-sustainability concentrations alike. Panelists gave great insight into what the future of sustainability looks like, and what that means for students looking to enter the field.
Meet the Panelists:
Matthias Berninger is the senior vice president of public affairs and sustainability at Bayer, one of the leading companies in the life sciences sector. With more than 26 years of experience in the political and business sectors, Berninger ensures that sustainability is integrated as a core element of Bayer’s overall business strategies as well as within all jobs at Bayer. He aims to help companies make money while balancing their global sustainability goals.
Ann Tracy is the chief sustainability officer (CSO) at Colgate-Palmolive and has worked with the company for more than 30 years in supply chain management. Her goal as CSO is to integrate sustainability across business strategies and to increase internal and external sustainability efforts. “We are just about a mile down the road from Rutgers [New Brunswick],” she said, “so we love to engage with Rutgers on lots of different levels, especially our R&D work.”
Brian Nash is the vice president of sustainability at Ingredion, a Fortune 500 company and multinational ingredient supplier. His role is to help strategize sustainability solutions with different suppliers, customers, and investors. He also helps lead Ingredion's Global Sustainability Council.
Angela Ortiz is the environmental, social, and governance (ESG) and sustainability manager at PSEG (Public Service Enterprise Group), the parent corporation of utility company Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G). Now at PSEG for more than 13 years, Ortiz works to develop and execute companywide sustainability initiatives and is responsible for internal communications. She also reports to the board of directors about sustainability issues and PSEG's environmental footprint reduction efforts.
Dr. Kevin Lyons is an associate professor of professional practice at Rutgers Business School in both the Supply Chain Management department and the Center for Supply Chain Management. He has been a Rutgers faculty member for more than 30 years and has a Ph.D. in supply chain management and environmental management and policy. His roles include researching the application of sustainability into supply chain systems and investigating supply chain sourcing and environmental justice issues. He co-chairs The President’s Task Force on Carbon Neutrality and Climate Resilience.
COVID-19: IMPACT ON SUSTAINABILITY
Panelists shared their companies’ respective priorities before the COVID-19 pandemic and now, and discussed what has changed.
Berninger explained that the company has maintained sustainability efforts—including decarbonization commitments—throughout the pandemic. Business incentive systems are increasingly reliant on meeting sustainability targets, said Berninger, with ten percent of the CEO’s salary dependent on meeting or exceeding sustainability goals.
Ortiz says at the beginning of the year, PSEG published their first climate report. But in light of COVID-19, social priorities became as much a focus as environmental priorities, with public interest shifting to company procedures for customers as well as how PSEG / PSE&G was taking care of its employees. In light of the financial impact of COVID-19, PSEG ceased shutoff activity for customers suffering economic hardships.
Tracy says that Colgate-Palmolive’s first and top priority was keeping employees safe by implementing new operation protocols. Externally, investors remained interested in climate-change efforts and environment-focused targets such as achieving net-zero carbon by 2040 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030; there was also increased consumer demand for products that are environmentally friendly and effective.
Nash explained how, throughout the pandemic, Ingredion has expanded focus on social issues while also remaining steadfast in its commitment to environmental and sustainability efforts. Customers are making more detailed inquiries about the supply chain, he says, and are demanding more transparency about operations than before the pandemic hit. Finance have begun integrating the topic of sustainability into investor conversations, and Nash noted that the need for both sustainability-focused marketing and marketing professionals has skyrocketed.
Lyons talked about how the focus on global supply chains has shifted to local supply chains and locally sourced materials. As the pandemic has had a significant social and financial impact on local economies and businesses, this emphasis has become even more significant. Overall, the pandemic has forced experts and companies alike to rethink sustainability / sustainability efforts and evaluate operations, procedures, and forward progress through different lenses.
THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY, CURRENT TRENDS, AND KEY SKILLS FOR STUDENTS
Dowd asked panelists to discuss how they envision future jobs in sustainability, what industry trends are occurring, and what skills are most important for students looking to enter the field. Panelists unanimously agreed that sustainability efforts will be integrated throughout all job functions and departments in most companies, and will ultimately become “the DNA” of a company’s operations.
Rutgers alumna Allison Dowd moderating the discussion.
- Increasing integration of sustainability efforts and businesses objectives—both in everyday operations and bottom-line profits
- Integration of sustainability and conservation efforts into company missions and all consumer products
- Increased sustainability efforts have yielded more interdisciplinary partnerships throughout companies
- Stakeholders and customers have a much-increased interest in companies’ sustainability efforts
- Increasing demand for analytical skills / individuals with a data analytics background
- The "newer generation" of employees—especially engineers—are thinking about sustainability efforts and integrating environmental thoughts into projects
- Innovation / thinking “outside the box” (design thinking)
- Systems thinking—the ability to see how one action impacts overall results
- The ability to not only extract data, but meaningfully interpret and present it
- Ability to function within a cross-disciplinary group and have the patience and listening skills to contemplate ideas from individuals with different mindsets and personalities
- Assertiveness—possessing the knowledge, communication skills, and confidence to voice your ideas
- Passion and thorough knowledge of sustainability issues
- Entrepreneurial skills
OTHER KEY TAKEAWAYS:
- One does not have to be formally trained in sustainability field to integrate sustainability into their profession--it is an interdisciplinary concern
- One should be innovative, passionate, and educated on sustainability issues and environmental efforts before entering the field of sustainability
- It is critical that formal, factual education about sustainability, environmental concerns, and climate change begin as early as possible, and Lyons referenced the fact that in New Jersey, formal education on climate change is scheduled to be incorporated into curricula of all elementary education in the near future.
- Berninger said it’s particularly important for junior staff members to have the confidence and passion express ideas when they are among more senior company members, but it’s also important for senior members to listen to those ideas
As a student in the field of user experience design (UXD), it is interesting to see how sustainability is integrating into nearly every imaginable field. The mention that sustainability in the future will be the DNA of a company—as so many panelists described—is a huge benefit and a positive outlook, especially as newer generations become more and more mindful of how their actions have environmental impact. Finally, and most importantly, the event and its distinguished, articulate panelists made me think of ways that I can integrate sustainability efforts into my own design work whenever possible.