As climate work is becoming a critical part of business operations, siloed sustainability teams have become a thing of the past and advice and inspiration from peers is becoming a key part of getting the work done.
At the 2023 Watershed Summit, we hosted a discussion featuring leaders from three of our customers—JPMorgan Chase, VMware, and KEEN Footwear. They represent not just different industries but very different stages of climate work—KEEN just completed its first measurement, while JPMorgan has been working on a climate action plan for nearly 20 years. Below we’re sharing key insights from the conversation; you can watch the full session here.
Meet the customers
Matthew Eaton leads responsible sourcing work at VMware, a leading provider of multi-cloud services. One of the major focus areas of his program is to increase spend with suppliers that focus on sustainability and his team owns a company-wide goal to get 75% of its suppliers by spend to set science-based targets by 2025.
Kirsten Blackburn is the Director of the KEEN Effect, KEEN Footwear’s Corporate Social Responsibility program. KEEN was founded in 2003 and remains a family-owned and privately held company. KEEN recently completed its first baseline footprint measurement for 2021. They're in the process of measuring 2022 and are working to set their first science-aligned target and reduction roadmap.
Taylor Wright is the Executive Director for Operational Sustainability at JPMorgan Chase (JPMC). She’s responsible for reducing the environmental footprint of JPMC’s day-to-day operations. Her team develops the firms’ emissions inventory with Watershed, manages targets, and builds the carbon portfolio. They are working to reduce the firm’s Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2030.
1. Climate risk is financial risk
“Good business is sustainable business. Any long-term business strategy should always consider risk and certainly climate risk is financial risk. To ignore that is shortsighted.” ”Matthew Eaton, VMware
The panelists noted that climate can pose risk in a variety of core business functions, including:
- Supply chain vulnerability: “[It’s important to consider] what is the likelihood that a major data center we use is going to be impacted by a hurricane or a fire.” - Matthew Eaton, VMware
- Business growth vulnerability: “We’re seeing that many important retail partners are requiring vendors to take action, so [climate work] is becoming a cost of doing business, and we love this.” - Kirsten Blackburn, KEEN Footwear
- Sustaining and growing vendor relationships: “As a buyer, we have questions in our RFPs about sustainability and weigh them as a 10-15% factor in our decision. It’s not the single largest scoring component, but it’s something that can weigh in your favor.” -Matthew Eaton, VMware
2. Always be a (good) teacher when you’re engaging stakeholders.
Kirsten from KEEN talked about the importance of not making the assumption that stakeholders understand every sustainability-related concept, and of creating a safe space to learn:
“In a group setting, I always say, ‘this may be a review for you, but we’re going to cover it anyways in case it’s anyone's first time hearing these terms.”
Matthew from VMware, who refers to himself as a supply chain expert who has learned sustainability through his role, uses that as a strength when trying to convince vendors to consider setting climate targets.
“You say ‘Science Based Targets’ and somebody’s eyes glaze over. You say greenhouse gas accounting, and if somebody isn’t an accountant that phrase can terrify them. I try to speak in a way that people would understand at [any level].”
3. There are a lot of unknowns in climate work, but that shouldn’t stop you from working on it.
Taylor from JPMC talked about the importance of acknowledging internally and externally that challenges exist, using her work to build the firm’s carbon credit portfolio as an example:
“We know there’s a lot of scrutiny on the quality of carbon credits, so we wanted to be really transparent about how JPMorgan evaluates for quality and why this is part of our strategy. It can be useful to acknowledge in communications when something may not be perfect.”
A self-proclaimed “smaller fish in this large pond”, Kirsten from KEEN said,
“You don’t have to have a baked plan to start the [emissions measurement] process, but you can’t change what you don’t measure. Watershed’s platform has really made it fun and easy for us to dissect and double click into our data with the functional leaders across the organization to learn and tell new stories.”
Feeling inspired by what our customer panelists shared? It’s easier than ever to kickstart a climate program. The first step is precise, granular emissions data—because before you can act, you need to know what to focus on. Reach out for help.
If you’re a current Watershed customer and would benefit from talking to other climate practitioners more often, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org about being a founding member of our customer community!