Perspectives: Sustainability After COVID-19 Q&A Follow Up

Last week, the OAAA Lunch Break Series featured a highly informative and thought provoking webinar centered around sustainability and climate action. The information was rich and deep with many listeners asking for more information.  OAAA went back to the presenters with a few follow-up questions.

Listen to the original webinar recording here.

Question: Why is climate action important to you and Adams Outdoor, and what vision do you have for a more sustainable future OOH industry?

KG: Climate action is important to me because inaction is not an option. We have a climate problem and I believe it’s the most serious problem we face globally and individually. OOH as an industry is not toxic to the environment but, the industry comes in contact with material that is toxic and therefore we have options on more sustainable approaches. I also see the industry as having a voice.  We are not using that voice in a significant manner to bring attention, constant and relentless attention, to these issues. And we must. 

Question: What JCDecaux has committed to doing in the areas of carbon neutrality and climate change mitigation are impressive. But it seems like a daunting task. How can other companies within the OOH industry get start? How can they start to develop their own climate action plan?

CBD: You can improve only what you measure. If you do not measure your impact, you cannot manage it. Start with these three steps:

  1. Know WHERE YOU ARE: Inventory of your products, services, raw materials used, end of life waste streams, and the impact of your operations. Identify the Carbon Footprint of your activity.
  2. Define WHERE YOU WANT TO BE: Don’t try to do everything at once. Focus on your main impacts (the more critical for your business and your stakeholders) then define objectives, and action plan, and key performance indicators (KPIs).
  3. Define HOW TO GET THERE: Set clear roles for responsibilities within the organization. Sustainability can be found everywhere inside an organization, and each function contributes. Monitor sustainability performance as financial performance. You might introduce sustainability criteria into management bonus structures.

Question: Are there ways a company or even an individual can get more active with sustainability programs in their communities?

SFR: The first step is to think about ways to reduce carbon emissions. Sure, you want to take smart actions for yourself and your family – choose green electricity, adjust your thermostat even a few degrees, pull the window shades on hot days, avoid carbon-intensive products and food.

Do all those things – and scale them up. What if everyone in your town took these actions? What if you did them together, as a friendly competition? What if there was a financial incentive to repair your leaky windows or attic?

What else can you do? Look around. What’s going on at your company? Is your leadership leading on sustainability? Does your employer have a climate action plan? How is our changing climate changing business? What strategies will reduce material risk of exposure to extreme weather events like floods and heatwaves, or supply-chain interruptions?

Do you have an alma mater with an endowment? A pension? How are those funds invested? Get a group of co-workers and alumni together to encourage a smart transition for fund managers to invest in public companies that are out in front of the clean energy transition and taking concrete steps to reduce financial exposure. 

Question: What are the business opportunities or benefits of committing to sustainability actions? Can driving climate action initiatives be good business?

CBD:  Sustainability is more than a function. It’s a business approach, a mindset, and a way of working together within a company. It’s really about creating growth. Sustainability has to become a natural part of everyone’s job.

It drives business performance in 2 ways:

  1. Profitability: Operational margin (efficient use of resources, energy, material), elimination of waste (supply chain optimization), market share/new business (growth driver, innovation, competitive advantage, new market share)
  2. Intangibles assets: Efficient management (risk management and low environmental & social impact), reputation (license to operate, brand image, differentiation), human capital (attract and keep talent, productivity, and motivation)

SFR: Advantages of an ambitious climate action plan at your business can be waste reduction and improvements in the efficiency of all sorts, all of which translate to financial savings. Healthier workers perform better and represent the company with pride in the community.

Insulating your organization from extreme-weather disruption is simply good business. You will attract and retain top talent; many people want to work for a company that is out in front on sustainability and social responsibility. Your customers will be impressed by ambitious commitments and accomplishments; be sure to communicate them loud and clear!

Check out climate business organizations such as Ceres, SASB, Climate Action 100+, CDP, and RE100. These are mature, well-organized, and supported business networks, together representing $Trillions of assets. Many of these leaders will be familiar brands and names in every sector.

OOH can partner with these leading sustainability business organizations and networks. And of course, the amazing inventory of OOH displays worldwide can educate the public, generate collaborative partnerships, and generate significant collective impact.

There is enormous potential for OOH to play a foundational role in the exciting innovation surrounding the clean-energy transition underway; and to integrate business strategies with strong pillars of equity, accessibility, inclusion, well-paying jobs, and multiple stakeholder benefits.