Colloquium 2018 REPORT

On November 9th, our network of more than 700 sustainability leaders from business, academia and nonprofit came together in Brussels at the ABIS Colloquium 2018 to discuss sustainability as a business opportunity.

Sustainability is no longer an aspiration, but a reason a business will exist in few years, or not. The main theme throughout the event was not whether to take responsibilities for the future, but HOW. The discussions were revolving around a question, How can companies thrive and generate business value in an increasingly complex (business) environment, while also contributing long-term social and environmental goals?”

We addressed some of today’s most difficult but urgent subjects, including Circular Economy, Digitalization, Diversity, Trust building, Impact indicators, Sustainable Finance and Business Model Innovation.

Here are some ways how you can re-live the highlights of our Colloquium (or catch what you missed):

  1. Read this report where we show the outcomes of the event.
  2. Watch our official aftermovie at the bottom of this report and tell us if it captures the atmosphere during Colloquium (feel free to share it).
  3. Watch our Talking Head interviews which will be posted regularly on our social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) onward with speakers as: Karim Hajjar, Chief Financial Officer, Solvay | Michel Croisé, President, Sodexo Benelux | Carolina Yeo, Partner of Future Work Forum and Founder of My Career and Child | Laetitia Gonin-Brun, Sustainability HR Director, Solvay | Thomas Osburg, Professor, Fresenius Business School and former Executive Director Corporate Affairs, Intel | Raffaella Cagliano, Deputy Director of the School of Management and Full Professor, Politecnico di Milano | Ivo Matser, CEO, ABIS and President of GISMA Business School | Claire Maxwell, Chair of GRLI Foundation
  4. Find yourself in photos that we uploaded right here or on our website.
  5. Check our latest projects and initiatives at our website.
  6. Post pictures or videos with the hashtag #Colloquium2018 and don’t forget to tag us.

We are grateful to have the opportunity to connect with all of you. Having so many engaged and thought leaders who are truly creating a more sustainable world by their everyday work, is a pleasure to meet and work with. It gives us courage and energy discussing insights and sharing issues that we are trying to overcome, that we will work even harder to activate wonderful collaborations and fast pace innovative projects to advance sustainability.

We are already looking forward to seeing you next time either during our individual meetings and projects or our next event KIAF, happening this spring 2019.

Karim Hajjar, Solvay member of the Executive Committee and Chief Financial Officer, Solvay

"Honored to be the opening speaker at ABIS Colloquium and share Solvay's ongoing journey in creating more sustainable value: a value that stands the test of time."

Circular Economy roundtable

One of the roundtables focused on circular economy (CE) intended to give participants a platform to share challenges and success stories as well as identify opportunities for action. The first session was led by Dominique Debecker, Deputy Sustainability Officer at Solvay. His talk focused on incorporating sustainability concerns into corporate decision-making. Solvay carefully reviews any mergers and acquisitions, capital expenditures, research and innovation activities through a sustainable portfolio management system. The focus of this strategy is to make robust business decisions by finding new growth areas and to align business with sustainability concerns. The need for a quick and agile assessment method based on circular economy principles was identified. The outcome of the discussion determined the importance of internalizing and embedding circular economy in the mindset of all employees across all functions.

Jonathan Martens, Corporate Social Responsibility Manager at Sodexo focused in the second session on the unique challenges the company faces in the hospitality and food service management sector. The company faces concerns around guaranteeing food quality and safety, safe packaging as well as reducing food and packaging (i.e. plastic) waste. As a solution, the company engages in open collaboration forums with start-ups to find ways to reduce impacts.

The final session was led by Isabelle Gubelmann-Bonneau, Senior VP Circular Economy Head at Solvay. She focused on value creation in CE and introduced ongoing projects around CE in the company. She formulated four specific challenges to the transition to CE: enabling changes in material flows, developing reverse supply chains, re-designing materials and ensuring that materials can be properly separated. In this session, the participants explored the potential of circular business models and how they could be leveraged to overcome the challenges. In addition, they highlighted the challenge of consumer behaviour and cultural norms especially around product ownership.

Key findings suggest that focal companies need to not only adapt their internal processes, but also integrate customers and suppliers into the transition to CE. The session stressed the importance of engaging policy-makers as well as finding opportunities for cross-sector collaboration to develop salient solutions. The session showed that ABIS provides a forum that can foster new sources of collaboration for actors from various sectors to help spur the transition to more circular and sustainable society.

Digitalization roundtable

The digitalization roundtable aimed to examine the potential but also risks of digitalization regards to sustainable development. The first session was chaired by Marc Fiammante, Distinguished Engineer and Leader of the Europe Federal CTO Team, IBM. He tackled the issue how businesses respond to the march of digitalization and how they can create value for society. He touched on the fact that there is a lack of IT skills and leaders' competencies in understanding analytical tools and data collection. The audience discussed the importance of academia to address this issue in their curricula and attract students and young researchers to this field.

The second session on Inclusiveness, Diversity and Digitalization was led by Carolina Yeo, Partner at Future Work Forum and Founder of My Career and Child. Carolina described digitalization as an organizational journey and paid particular attention to the importance that companies connect to individuals, the need of inclusive teams, talent development and team management. During this interactive session, the participants engaged in discussing the potential problems and solutions arising from lack of diversity of people and the diversity of data. The outcome of this discussion was to think of ways how to prevent these problems.

Thomas Osburg, Professor at Fresenius Business School and former Executive Director Corporate Affairs at Intel, picked up on the second session with building of trust in digitalization. The participants highlighted the role of trust in creating sustainable society and making business value. Main outcomes consisted of presenting the needs of business and the needs of academia to build this trust and the future impact on society.

Sustainable finance roundtable

Kaitlin Crouch, Senior Consultant, Global Sustainability Programmes and Michel van den Berg, Terra Team Lead, ING presented ING’s pioneering Terra Model on measuring the environmental impact of ING’s €500bn loan book and how they intend to use the model to steer the loan book towards achieving the 2-degree goal of the Paris Agreement. There have already been collaborations with the academic community in developing the Terra Model and ING team wanted to expand the collaboration on by shifting focus on the real estate loans. Although the direct impact of the real estate sector on carbon emissions is much smaller than the industrial sectors like cement, steel and shipping the share of real estate loans in total loans is very large. ING’s further work demonstrated that the household sector, the borrowers, is a significant consumer of fossil fuels to run their houses. The discussions on this topic raised issues regarding the role of regulation especially Basel risk weighted assets approach and consideration of the consumption of fossil fuels in energy use for domestic purposes.

Anthony Carey, Partner at Mazars raised the issue of middle market companies missing from the discussions on sustainability and led a discussion on how to introduce sustainability at middle market companies. The conversation shifted towards embedding sustainability in governance structure. This would primarily involve formal reporting mechanism and board level agenda on sustainability. Another suggestion was that a key role could be played by stakeholder pressure exercised by enlightened consumers, communities and employers of mid-market companies. Since mid-market companies tend to be cost conscious there was a proposition that the big companies to whom SMEs and mid-market companies link through supply chains can share their capabilities and experiences with mid-market companies.

In the final session Isabelle Cabie, Global Head of Responsible Development at Candriam, led a discussion on how the asset management sector could introduce a common methodology to measure ESG impact within the SDGs framework. Although ESG investment now has become mainstream in the industry, individual asset managers use different methods to measure impact. Additional problem is the non-standardized nature of reporting by companies of their contribution to SDGs. The outcome of the discussion introduced audit of SDG reporting and allocation of resources for research into developing models to assess SDG.

Finance has always played a role in corporate governance, competition and in creation of innovative firms. Now in this new world of common risks that humanity faces and the UN’s SDGs so pertinently, finance can play a substantial role through steering loan portfolios, improving reporting and governance at the firm level and acting on behalf of ultimate shareholders.

Enabling Leadership for Sustainability

Our final panel consisted of an interactive discussion between speakers Michel Croisé, President, Sodexo Benelux; Raffaella Cagliano, Deputy Director of the School of Management and Full Professor, Politecnico di Milano and Laetitia Gonin-Brun, Sustainability HR Director, Solvay. The whole panel was guided by moderator Dominyka Venciute, Director of Business Management and Analytics Programme, ISM University of Management and Economics. The discussions were revolving around education, training and development of current and future leaders for achieving the right mindsets and competences in order to deal with the more complex social, environmental and economic challenges. The speakers shared how is sustainability integrated in their academic institution or business in order to support sustainable development commitments.

Participation and impressions

We have had the honor to welcome 100 participants from more than 60 academic institutions and corporates from 20+ countries all over the world at our 17th annual ABIS Colloquium.

The audience was rather balanced with 44 % of corporate representatives and 43 % of academic representatives. The other 13 % attendees were from NGOs and youth organisations. We reached 15 000 impressions with more than 400 interactions on our social media channels.

For 70 % of respondents the value of Colloquium for them and their organisations was good or excellent.
80 % of participants think that the level of engagement of the roundtables was good or excellent.
70 % of surveyed gained good or excellent insights from Colloquium and the roundtables.

Colloquium Photos

Laetitia Gonin-Brun, Sustainable Development & Energy, Human Resources Director, Solvay

"Sustainability is not an expertise. It has to be fully embedded in the different fields of activities. Starting from the business schools or engineer curriculum to prepare our future leaders who will create higher economic value, engage their teams, and contribute to local and global development."

Colloquium Video

ABIS - The Academy of Business in Society

We created this info-graphic for our members and other potential partners to understand what we do, who we do it with, how we do it and why. Please, take time to have a look at it and in case of any questions contact us.

Ivo Matser, CEO, ABIS

"Sustainability includes a lot of things we don't know about yet, which means we are on a journey. A journey of practice, a journey of experience and a journey of research."

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