WestRock shares sustainability classes realized

This text is sponsored by WestRock

It has been an eventful 2.5 years for WestRock and the world at-large. Within the midst of accelerating international resolve to keep away from the worst impacts of local weather change, as an organization, WestRock started a refresh journey in 2019 to additional ramp up its sustainability efforts. Within the course of, we underwent adjustments which have enabled us to extra broadly and deeply incorporate the lens of sustainability into the enterprise.

Now, with the approval of a science-based goal, an up to date set of ESG targets and the publication of the 2021 Sustainability Report, all the pieces has coalesced. Executives and sustainability managers are sharing perception into key choice factors, and what they’ve realized alongside this journey.

We’d beforehand approached sustainability from the attitude of a producing group, with a heavy deal with the environmental facets. However we even have an necessary accountability to ensure we’re advancing the social and governance facets as nicely and bringing them into the ESG story. As vice chairman of sustainability, I’ve seen how a lot we’ve achieved over the previous two years to embrace this accountability and say, “We have to do extra.”

Earlier this month, WestRock’s science-based goal was authorised by the Science Based Target initiative (SBTi). It requires the corporate to scale back absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions 27.5 p.c by 2030 from a 2019 base yr and to scale back Scope 3 GHG emissions from bought items and companies, gasoline and power actions, upstream and downstream transportation and distribution, and finish of life therapy of offered merchandise by 27.5 p.c inside the identical timeframe.

Though we’ve already achieved a 22 p.c discount in absolute Scope 1 and Scope 2 market-based emissions for the reason that creation of WestRock in FY15, we all know we have to do extra to scale back emissions to assist keep away from the worst impacts of local weather change. As we ramp up for our subsequent problem — reaching the goal — we wished to take a second to replicate and share what we’ve realized throughout this course of over the previous two years, in order that others could profit from our learnings.   

Lesson 1: Set daring targets after which pursue them

Setting targets might be daunting, particularly while you’re undecided the place to start out. A great rule of thumb is, determine the areas of significance to your stakeholders inside the environmental, social and governance realms and set associated targets. Take into account the place you might be progressing naturally to assist information you.

Don’t be afraid to problem your self. It’s higher to purpose excessive and never fairly make it than it’s to not purpose excessive sufficient. Finally, expectations are that corporations attain so far as they will. Boldness (paired with honesty) will likely be appreciated by your stakeholders.

WestRock’s targets had been shaped from a mix of an inside evaluation (the idea of the corporate’s authentic 2025 enterprise targets), a follow-up stakeholder assessment, steering from professional consultants and culminated with our Enterprise Sustainability Challenge — a cross-functional group of inside stakeholders tasked with growing and aligning our new targets throughout the group. All of those items helped us focus in on the place we wanted to be enhancing and the place we may have the most important influence.

I not too long ago requested Doug Sharo, senior program supervisor of sustainability, and George D’Urso, director of fiber sustainability right here at WestRock, to replicate on this course of at giant. “We knew that setting a science-based goal could be a problem. But it surely’s the best factor to do,” D’Urso stated. I couldn’t agree extra.

Sharo added: “Particularly given the latest [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] stories. It has grow to be extra necessary to our traders over the previous few years … it has reached a fever pitch.”

Assembly this goal will likely be an evolving course of. The staff has achieved the modeling, and it’s clear that giant reductions throughout the enterprise will likely be required. Now we have recognized pathways, together with elevated use of renewable electrical energy, and persevering with to discover the elevated use of biomass for thermal heating, however it’s positively not a small feat. Wanting ahead, we additionally acknowledge that we could have to problem ourselves additional by rising our emissions discount ambitions.

Lesson 2: Be clear

Nobody firm has all of it discovered. In a sustainability journey, regardless the place you might be, transparency is essential in an effort to enhance.

For WestRock, a rising space of significance is Scope 3 emissions. As set forth in our science-based goal, our Scope 3 emissions reductions will deal with bought items and companies, gasoline and power actions, upstream and downstream transportation and distribution, and finish of life therapy of offered merchandise. The excellent news is that we have already got nice relationships with our suppliers. We will leverage these partnerships to scale back emissions throughout worth chains and make assembly our targets simpler.

A great way to make sure transparency is by leveraging acceptable frameworks to share and talk your knowledge. This offers your stakeholders a possibility to let you know what they care most about and permits us to reference our progress by respected frameworks and requirements, reminiscent of these from the World Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Accounting Requirements Board (SASB) WestRock’s newest sustainability report is aligned to GRI, with a bridge to SASB.

In WestRock’s expertise, elevated transparency has benefitted us in the long term. For instance, if the U.S. Securities and Alternate Fee’s proposed local weather rule is authorised, we’ll be prepared to offer our Scope 1 and a couple of emissions as we’ve had them externally assured for the final three years.

Lesson 3: Use exterior assurance to realize credibility

We associate with our inside assurance groups to make sure we’ve robust reporting processes in place for our ESG reporting. Nevertheless, searching for exterior assurance in your materials matters provides a further layer of credibility on your stakeholders.

WestRock is in its third yr of restricted assurance with Ernst & Younger LLP over choose ESG metrics that align with our materials matters. We all know that transparency, notably in areas that we’ve outlined to be necessary to stakeholders, or acknowledge as areas of development, is necessary. We’ve additionally taken the additional step of assuring social indicators reminiscent of range, fairness, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) metrics. Greenhouse fuel emissions, water, virgin fiber sourcing, recycled fiber content material, recordable incident charge and power utilization are among the many different metrics that we search exterior assurance on.

Total, assurance forces your group to implement controls and processes in your assortment techniques. For instance, on the power and emissions facet, we’ve a database that tracks invoices and gasoline purchases by website all over the world.

Lesson 4: Collaborate, after which collaborate extra

If there’s one piece of recommendation I’ve for sustainability groups, it will be which you could’t do that alone. We actually constructed up momentum once we socialized this and constructed cross-functional groups throughout the group, getting buy-in from the C-suite and engineering and advertising and marketing groups alike.

Sustainability is a staff endeavor, and success requires everybody to be in lock step. As we glance to what we hope to realize within the years forward, we all know that enterprise-wide collaboration will likely be essential. WestRock’s Enterprise Innovation Council and the not too long ago created Enterprise Sustainability Challenge are each cross-functional groups which were integral in facilitating collaboration within the improvement of our enterprise targets.

Wanting forward

Our staff is thrilled to have not too long ago welcomed Alpa Suturia, senior vice chairman of technique and sustainability. My ideas on the work forward are echoed in her latest feedback to us: “I’m so impressed by what this staff has achieved over the previous few years. Now we have our work minimize out for us within the subsequent few years, however I’m excited to assist lead this effort ahead. Collectively, we are able to obtain a extra sustainable world.”

Now, the work continues. For these enthusiastic about studying extra about WestRock’s sustainability journey, take a look at our 2021 Sustainability Report, or attain out to us at [email protected].


Leave a Reply