Today, most Fortune 500 companies have issued their first CSR/sustainability report, or have been reporting for more than a decade. These companies have blogs, social media channels and media campaigns meant to better tell the story of their corporate responsibility efforts around the globe. We have all learned how to find and use these “megaphones” to share our best practices.
The challenge is that the goal posts are ever-changing. To start, we’ve identified the low-hanging fruit and we’ve addressed the most obvious issues such as reducing energy, water and waste in our operations. But as we move forward, an increasing number of stakeholders want to see full supply chain responsibility and deepened sustainability investment to move the needle and face our global challenges.
In tackling such issues and challenges, the megaphone is an inappropriate communications tool and a more surgical approach is needed. While the megaphone still has its role, more and more CSR and sustainability professionals are being called upon to provide leadership with a deeper level of analysis necessary to make tough choices about where, when and how to invest their capital and human resources. Ranging from Puma’s environmental profit and loss to Dow’s valuation of natural resources, companies are investing further to understand current issues and how they relate to challenges in the environment.
As another example, the Sustainability Consortium (of which we are a founding member) is advancing Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and providing suppliers and buyers with the valuable information they need to address key hotspots in their supply chains. At Darden, we’ve long focused on seafood as our largest commodity. But today, we are working to address issues within other commodities, such as beef. This requires more collaboration with the stakeholders throughout the supply chain, including many other companies striving for sustainable consumption.
Darden is also developing a new tool to analyze our energy, water and waste efforts in our restaurants. This will enable us to look across our portfolio of restaurants and identify even more targeted approaches to water conservation based on regional needs; or address energy efficiency at a brand level based on the various demands of the equipment in the front and back of house. We are also able to effectively track our waste reduction efforts to move closer to our zero waste goal.
In the end, we must balance the need for the megaphone and the “microscope” to provide our external and internal stakeholders with the proper qualitative and quantitative data they need to support our goals. While one isn’t more valuable than the other, the microscope is increasingly becoming a tool we are frequently using to advance our sustainability efforts.
Brandon Tidwell is Manager of Sustainability for Darden Restaurants. In this role, he is responsible for the development and implementation of corporate sustainability strategies and policies across all of Darden. Brandon joined Darden from FedEx and is a candidate for a Master’s in Business Administration at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. He also holds a master’s degree in Social Work from Baylor and a certificate in Philanthropy from New York University.