ESG Technique in Motion – The European Enterprise Evaluation


by Chengyi Lin and Truke Smoor

Classes from translating a world water conservation technique right into a coherent and impactful motion plan

At 2019’s World Water Week2 in Stockholm, Truke feverishly took notes throughout a session based mostly on an organization information3 that outlined a step-by-step strategy on course setting for water. She felt she had lastly discovered the playbook for Cargill’s water technique.

In 2017, Cargill had listed water alongside local weather and land use as a high precedence for its sustainability technique. A devoted workforce, together with Truke, was tasked with detailing the technique, setting the targets and coordinating the implementation. Nevertheless, when she sat down with a director from a number one environmental group and excitedly shared the Cargill imaginative and prescient and her duties, the response from the director was muted, to say the least. “The dimensions and the complexity of the initiative is huge. Actually, I don’t see a path to fixing this within the timeline you’ve got put your self on”, Truke was informed.

Put up-World Water Week, Truke’s back-of-the-envelope calculation proved that director proper. Operating a sequence of complete hydrological research to set targets might take roughly two years and price US$50,000. Cargill has already performed 30 research to tell its amenities technique. Understanding that Cargill’s largest impression is within the agricultural provide chain, she then realised she must conduct one other 270 research. Even working 10-15 research in parallel every year, it will take 15-20 years and greater than US$15 million to simply gather the information for goal setting. After all, this was an unimaginable ask for any govt committee or board.

Each water problem is native and the answer additionally must be native.

Many sustainability leaders at corporations with sizable world footprints are experiencing Truke’s battle. The hydrological examine strategy could seem agile and cheap at a look. Amplified by the massive variety of world websites and the advanced provide chains in most MNCs, the time, capital and human sources required means it’s unrealistic. Past water, this battle additionally prevents motion when corporations try to deal with different matters reminiscent of de-carbonisation and social impression.


May there be a distinct means –
a means that permits leaders to generate better impression sooner?

Truke and her workforce went again to the drafting board. How might they deal with each scale and complexity? How might they proceed to behave now as an alternative of ready for the evaluation? As a substitute of trying to evaluate 300 precedence areas unexpectedly, how might they focus their efforts and begin with areas that would generate essentially the most impression? These questions could seem intuitive, however the solutions had been removed from simple.

After two years of iterations, the collaboration between Cargill and WRI led to an enterprise-level strategy to setting the appropriate targets, prioritising the initiatives and beginning implementation instantly. Consequently, Cargill introduced their water targets in 2020, which had been praised by Jason Morrison4, President of the Pacific Institute and the Head of CEO Water Mandate: “This can be a actually spectacular piece of labor that they’ve completed and a fairly formidable dedication they’re making. It’s bought quite a bit to it.”

A strategic enterprise strategy

An enterprise strategy is unveiled on this four-step strategic framework, which may be utilized to different ESG matters past water.

1. Begin with the science and leverage any out there technical knowledge

“At present, we have now quite a lot of knowledge, good knowledge based mostly on science”, Truke defined. You will need to have a scientific foundation in your technique and targets. Cargill shouldn’t be the primary to take this strategy. For instance, as early as 2016, Mars used a science-based strategy5 to set its water conservation technique.

The hydrological examine strategy could seem agile and cheap at a look. Amplified by the massive variety of world websites and the advanced provide chains in most MNCs, the time, capital and human sources required means it’s unrealistic.

Through the years, the WRI and different organisations have labored with the scientific neighborhood to construct databases6 and assist organisations perceive the assorted water challenges together with availability, entry and high quality.
Cargill’s enterprise strategy began with publicly out there knowledge. The workforce took the worldwide watershed knowledge7 and utilized the primary criterion: Which areas face essentially the most pressing water challenges, outlined by the scientific neighborhood, by way of each availability and high quality? This step lowered the variety of areas to concentrate on by 80 p.c to about 1200 watersheds8 and established a baseline.

Nevertheless, science alone shouldn’t be sufficient. Technical knowledge can grow to be far more impactful when mixed with distinctive, industry-specific knowledge units. The workforce overlaid the general public knowledge with Cargill enterprise footprint to determine areas the place the corporate doubtlessly contributed to water challenges. This additional lowered the variety of watersheds to 10 p.c whereas retaining 94 p.c of the impression.

2. Prioritise based mostly on impression to determine fast actions

How might they take this additional? By including managerial layers to the technical knowledge.

fig 2
The subsequent layer issues the relative impression. Inside the areas the place Cargill has sizable contribution to the water consumption, it is very important examine this impression with that of different gamers. In areas the place the relative impression is larger, the corporate can assert extra direct affect. Consequently, particular water actions can generate extra direct outcomes. This layer lowered the variety of watersheds down to simply 3 p.c of the whole variety of world watersheds dealing with challenges. Curiously, these watersheds nonetheless account for 74 p.c of the water impression past ecological limits.

After making use of these ranges of knowledge, a extra manageable variety of watershed websites can be utilized to run hydrological research to set extra correct targets. Extra importantly, the workforce can run pilots and experiments to begin producing actual impression.

3. Discover strategic choices for different areas

What about these areas that aren’t the highest precedence?

strategic optionSure areas might name for various strategic approaches to resolve the water problem. For instance, in areas the place a agency has a big water footprint however low penetration (2C in Determine 1), it must collaborate with different gamers to set requirements and cooperative actions geared in the direction of fixing the problem.

Or in areas the place a agency has a big water footprint and enormous penetration, however the water supply is plentiful (2A in Determine 1), the agency can take a extra long-term strategy to each water conservation and prevention of air pollution. Cargill’s largest water customers, over 50 Cargill vegetation, are required to implement water stewardship practices.9

The same strategy has been taken by different organisations. For instance, Mengniu Dairy10, one of many largest dairy producers in China, has carried out an prolonged producer duty framework by means of its merchandise’ life cycle to make sure long-term sustainability. Along with a 5.25 p.c discount in water consumption in its manufacturing unit, the agency has additionally engaged with its producers to avoid wasting water and cut back air pollution.


4. Strategise globally and interact domestically

Each water problem is native and the answer additionally must be native. The workforce targeted on the areas the place Cargill has a large footprint and a big share of impression on water. With the information procured within the earlier steps, the workforce utilized a localised technique to its pilot.

First, the workforce engaged with the important thing stakeholders in Cargill’s full worth chain to evaluate the water impression inside the ecosystem. Second, based mostly on the outcomes, the workforce utilized an identical prioritisation precept to determine the areas that would generate the biggest impression. In some areas, this can be water wasted attributable to low irrigation effectivity. In others, it could be the contamination of a water supply from fertilisers. Third, the workforce engaged with the stakeholders or area people to deal with context-specific points.

For instance, in america’ Midwest, Cargill and Nestlé Purina, collectively11 with The Nature Conservancy, helped native farmers set up sensible climate sensors in crop fields. These IOT gadgets enabled farmers to make extra knowledgeable irrigation choices, thus lowering the water utilized in pumping whereas enhancing crop well being and yield. This follow additionally synergistically lowered vitality consumption and labour expense for farmers.


5. Amplify the impression by means of synergy

Because the workforce began to run pilots and implement the technique, it shortly realised the sturdy synergy between water and greenhouse gasoline in agriculture. By working with native communities and enhancing agri-tech, the workforce can cut back each water and greenhouse gasoline (GHG) impression. For instance, by combining IoT and automation, farmers can cut back using fertilisers, and consequently, cut back water air pollution and GHG emissions. This enabled the Cargill workforce to boost its water technique by engaged on each water scarcity and air pollution points.

Equally, Nike has engaged with its crop suppliers to scale back carbon and water consumption. It additionally works with dyeing and ending suppliers to improve gear and enhance processes by means of 40 boiler initiatives, which reduces water consumption and air pollution in addition to vitality consumption. Its polyester recycling programme may cut back carbon emission, vitality consumption, waste and air pollution.

In slightly below two years, Cargill has not solely outlined a significant and complete water goal, however has additionally gone past operational targets and penetrated its full worth chain. Many corporations have included varied ESG focus areas of their technique. Sadly, many fail to decide to attainable targets or start significant change. The steering doc for setting enterprise water targets12 and the applying by Cargill can’t solely set an instance for water, but additionally lay out a common framework and prioritisation course of to kick off your ESG motion plans.

The article was initially printed in INSEAD Information web site on 10 January 2022. It may be accessed right here:

Concerning the Writer

ChengyiChengyi Lin is Affiliate Professor of Technique at INSEAD and a number one professional on strategic transformations. His analysis explores the methods for twin transformation – digitalisation and sustainability – by means of improvements. Along with tutorial analysis and instructing, Professor Lin serves on a number of boards and actively consults for multi-nationals. He’s additionally the youngest standing member of the European Government Council.

TrukeTruke Smoor is International Sustainability Director – Water at Cargill and leads the event and implementation of the worldwide water technique. Truke has a Grasp of Science diploma in Chemical Engineering from the Delft College of Expertise within the Netherlands and has held positions within the chemical substances and consulting {industry} earlier than becoming a member of Cargill. At Cargill, Truke has led the event of worldwide water insurance policies and necessities for operations and has been the architect of the water targets for Cargill. The primary of its variety addressing water availability, high quality and entry to secure consuming water throughout the worth chain.




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