Symposium 2014

The Maturing of Sustainability Management: From Compliance to Sustainable Success

Best Practices in Corporate & Product Sustainability

thinkstep hosted its 5th annual Best Practices Symposium under the title “The Maturity of Sustainability Management”, -  A high-profile knowledge sharing event attended by thought leaders, sustainability managers and business professionals who congregate to share how sustainability management adds real value to their organizations and the environment.

Inspiration, expert knowledge share and pragmatic advice

As momentum grows, the sustainability market is on the path to maturity and with it sustainability management practices and tools are advancing.

The symposium provided inspiring presentations, roundtable discussions and an open atmosphere with excellent networking opportunities.

The event helped identify best strategies and their implementation to deal with sustainability challenges – at different maturity stages. Companies leveraged the event to help weigh up the advantages - adopt tentative compliance and risk mitigation strategies or embrace full sustainable business integration leading to transformation.

Insight and advice from compelling Speakers

The Symposium event was supported by a number of inspiring speakers whose thought leadership and insight support leading players and organizations across industry and the globe.

Key Note with John Elkington

John is a world authority on corporate responsibility and sustainable development and writes a weekly column for the Guardian Sustainable Business website. He is currently the Founding Partner of Volans, a future-focused business working at the intersection of the sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation movements.

Key speakers

John will was joined by a number of other exceptional speakers from The Landmark Group of Builders, Technische Universität Berlin, Volkswagen, Amcor Flexibles, Assa Abloy, Henkel, Zumtobel Group, Siemens, Kimberly-Clark, SAFT, Jaguar - Landrover, Mahindra Sanyo Special Steel and Sustainable Apparel Coalition.

Watch the trailer

Speaker 2014 - Watch the videos and download the presentations

From Sustainability Compliance to Breakthrough

PE Symposium 2014 | Volans John Elkington

Working up and down the value chain

PE Symposium 2014 | Amcor Flexibles Gerald Rebitzer

EPDs as part of a lean organization

PE Symposium 2014 | ASSA ABLOY Markus Bade

Speed EPDating

Symposium 2014 | Zumtobel Group Sebastian Gann

The Sustainable Apparel Coalition, Higg Index, and PEF

PE Symposium 2014 | Sustainable Apparel Coalition Jason Kibbey

Delivering carbon certification on the SoFi platform

PE Symposium 2014 | Enviro-Mark Solution Ann Smith

Holcim’s Approach to Sustainability

PE Symposium 2014 | Holcim Technology Michael Scharpf

Substance compliance in enterprise software

PE Symposium 2014 | Siemens PLM Uwe Sagenschneider

Managing complex materials sustainably

PE Symposium 2014 | HD Solutions Ulrich Heinzel

Summery Messages

In March 2014 sustainability leaders met in Stuttgart Germany at the Symposium to learn, network and deepen their understanding of leading and future practices. This year’s theme “The Maturing of Sustainability Management: From Compliance to Sustainable Success” reflected the maturation of the sustainability space.


Through insightful, candid and illuminating presentations and discussions, thought leaders shared the key emerging elements of sustainability – from growing value chain expectations to emerging regulations; as well as, successful practices in addressing them – including tools, approaches and implementation guidance.

To refresh the memory of those of you in attendance and to inform those of you unable to join, the following three key messages – Transparency, Activity to Outcome, and Complexity and Change - highlight insights expressed throughout the day. We hope that they reaffirm your intent, or encourage you, to attend our next event.

Transparency, Transparency, Transparency – It is here and only going to grow

[There aren’t] a lot of consumers willing to pay more but there are also a number of consumers who don’t want to buy below a threshold of acceptability. - Jason Kibbey, Executive Director, Sustainable Apparel Coalition. Do you know where the threshold is for your consumers and where you and your suppliers are relative to it?

Throughout the day, we heard from multiple presenters on the importance and role of upstream environmental and social impacts to their business. This is being driven by growing consumer interest in the non-controversial status of the products they are purchasing, regulatory efforts working to incorporate life cycle thinking (including PEF) into their activities, and access to a depth of global information unimaginable even a few years ago. The implication, of this upstream focus, for companies is to understand and proactively address potential risks and opportunities within their value chain. Applying life cycle thinking within one’s value chain to identify and address impacts is a logical starting point. From there, as demonstrated by a number of presenters, most notably Zumtobel – who added to their EPDs for over 10,000 products by completing one in real time during their presentation - one must act on and communicate the insights to relevant stakeholders. Demands for data and performance metrics will only increase and to be successful companies would be well advised to respond proactively.

Activity to Impacts – Generating tangible value from our efforts

… the emphasis on business value and how sustainability can help to create added value has grown tremendously over the last years. – Gerald Rebitzer, Sustainability Leader, Amcor

An encouraging development and trend at the Symposium was the focus on the outcomes and tangible benefit of various activities. Examples of this included: Dr. Krinke of Volkswagen, who shared the purpose of Life Cycle Engineering being to transfer LCA results into measurable technical targets; and presentations by Siemens (who’s Environmental Portfolio represented 43% of total revenue in FY 2013), Amcor, ASSA ABLOY, and Henkel which all spoke to specific business values of their efforts.

This focus on tangible outcomes and business value has always been a focus of the sustainability space, but it is an important milestone to be able to capture, quantify and communicate them in an effective way throughout our organizations and industries. Further, this focus on outcomes helps to validate the value of our efforts and ensures that we are able to deliver the expected internal benefits from our efforts; as well as, external benefits.

While the full scope of tools and techniques continue to be built and refined, individuals can start now to engage broader audiences within their organizations. As demonstrated by the presenters, in many cases, it is a question of where one chooses to focus – on the outcome versus the activity – and in translating the sustainability outcomes into language and terms relevant to the audience (e.g. estimated cost savings vs. percentage of material reduction).

Complexity and Change - The new normal

… the uncomfortable truth is that business is only just beginning to grasp the nature and scale of the systematic challenges it faces in such areas as energy security, food security, water security and climate security – John Elkington, Founding Partner and Executive Chairman, Volans


A number of presenters, including the keynote speaker John Elkington, spoke of a near term future that will look very different than the reality we are currently in. This is driven by visionary leaders willing to redefine our approach to business; new tools and resources available to make better decisions; accelerating public and private regulations; as well as, limits of our current approaches to meet the scale of challenges the global community is facing.


Given this, companies and individuals will be continually challenged to respond to the ever changing landscape, as has been seen in the construction sector. Those most likely to succeed in this scenario will be playing a role in shaping the future either through proactive engagement in setting standards and regulations- such as SAFT Batteries and others involvement in EC PEF pilots; by defining leading practice through their actions; or by innovating new business models, products and services. Further, those who are positioned to succeed will be approaching sustainability from a holistic perspective identifying their material issues and pursuing robust versus weak or poorly resourced solutions.


The Path Forward

As the industry evolves, we intends to continue as a strong partner in the journey. Included in that effort is our commitment to develop a single source for corporate and product data by bringing SoFi and GaBi onto a single platform. We are also committed to translating the sustainability activities of industry partners into actual business value (e.g., revenue growth, brand enhancement, cost savings and risk reduction).


We are grateful to each of the presenters and breakout group moderators for sharing their experiences, lessons learned and invaluable insights. It was truly inspiring to see tangible models and practices one can use to thrive in the evolving world of sustainability. We look forward to continuing the conversations started here with you throughout the year and at next year’s symposium.