IFC Sustainability Exchange 2014

Sustainability Exchange 2014

June 2, 2014 — With a record participation of over 300 clients and partners, IFC’s eighth Sustainability Exchange on “Transformation through Collaboration” took place in Washington, DC recently, convening oil & gas, mining, power, water, agribusiness and forestry clients as well as NGOs from around the world.

Participants at the Exchange included companies, think tanks, NGOs, donors, and academia such as Conservation International, Chevron, JK Paper, Nestlé, Newmont, Shell, Sodexo, Wharton Business School, and WWF. During more than 20 different sessions, participants had a unique opportunity to network and jointly explore how to drive good business performance by embedding sustainability into core business functions.

Alan Davies, CEO of Rio Tinto, Simon Thompson, Chairman of Tullow Oil, Jane Nelson of Harvard’s Kennedy School and Larry Susskind of MIT were among many distinguished speakers. The essence of the event was captured in a Rubik’s cube depicting different industries to show the multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary coordination required for development transformation.

The event highlighted that sustainability is a cultural issue in an organization and that capability development requires addressing subconscious biases. In addition, shared prosperity is not just about jobs and wealth creation but also about creating a structure where business, sustainability, and inclusiveness can flourish. There was overall consensus that businesses need to have a more strategic conversation with both governments and local communities and that “agreeing to cooperate is not about compromising” but about “creating value so that there is more to share among the parties.”

One of the key takeaways from the Exchange was that companies must “go slow to go fast later,” engaging diverse stakeholders proactively rather than rushing to meet short-term deadlines which may lead to future costly delays. The fundamental need of conducting thorough stakeholder analysis was also emphasized along with the critical role neutral third parties can play in helping firms navigate sensitive relations with key stakeholders.

Sessions focused on a wide range of issues including the food, water, energy, minerals nexus and benefit sharing with host societies. Participants shared their hands-on experience in addressing security and conflict challenges, merging natural resources with livelihood opportunities, balancing water needs across sectors, deciding when to set up foundations, and engaging youth and women to gain a competitive advantage and transform communities.

The Exchange stands out among other similar workshops by helping clients develop strategic relationships while sharing work in progress, bumps and bruises as well as successes.