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Owning Sustainability (2): How To Make An Impact As A Business In Manufacturing

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With our minds on Earth Day on April 22nd, we sat down with Augury’s in-house sustainability enthusiast Sascha Dainat. Last week we talked to him about what individuals can do to make a difference. This week we focus on how companies can have a positive impact – both internally and across the manufacturing industry. “You’ll have to try a lot of different things to see what works,” says Sascha. “And then scale what’s successful.”

Portrait of Sascha Dainat
Sascha Dainat

Since joining at Augury in 2022, Sascha Dainat has been staying busy. Not only is he the Director of Revenue Enablement, he’s also taking an active bottom-up approach in bringing sustainability more into the company’s regular conversation. With Earth Day 2022 coming up, we thought it was a perfect opportunity to share the love – for people, planet and profit. 

Read Part 1: ‘Owning Sustainability (1):
How You Can Make An Impact At Home And At Work

Let’s first review first principles. How do you define sustainability? 

I have two. One defines sustainability development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” The other focuses on the business sense: “We must align the needs of people, planet, and profit to be truly sustainable.” 

Last year you took a course on ‘The Sustainability Opportunity’ which covered various aspects of making sustainability an intrinsic part of a modern company. What was your big takeaway?

It was a sense of scale. Yes, we need to make the effort as individuals. But if big companies make changes the impact could be massive. For example, one professor helped develop sustainability programs for Walmart. As one of the biggest retailers in the world, they are systematically working on sustainability. And if they make a change in their supply chain, they can make a huge, huge difference. They have the biggest market power and there’s also a trickle-down effect. Walmart is even motivating their suppliers to work more sustainably in many different ways through their project Gigaton. And it’s not just top-down: people throughout the organization are driving different sustainability initiatives.

Then there’s Unilever that’s really become a flagship for sustainability. Around a decade ago, they started building partners and coalitions with NGOs, governments and even competitors to make their business and supply chains more sustainable. And they are also inspiring their whole workforce to think along – I’ve already mentioned the example of  the decision to cut 3 mm off each PG Tips tea bag. Also, hat’s off to Patagonia and their very systematic and transparent approach to sustainability.

These are all big players who with every small change makes a huge impact. So, we need to engage with them as much as we can. 

What insights do you have on how you can apply sustainability on a company level?

First off, implementing sustainability in a company is not an easy game. Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever, who pushed their shift to sustainability, wrote a book about it called Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take. And in general, there are multiple approaches and you need to try many of them. Some will fail and some will be successful. And it’s not just about involving the leadership but also taking a bottom-up approach. And this is where I am trying to be successful: finding the like-minded, exchanging ideas with them and then together trying to influence via mechanisms such as newsletters or events. 

You also have to be patient. I’m currently researching clothing brands and some are really trying hard to do proper sustainable sourcing, such as United By Blue, Everlane and Asket. But even they say, you can’t control everything. So, you have to make compromises on the way – like using a plastic tag or plastic wrap from recycled plastic. But step-by-step you can work to turn it around and change your supply chain. 

One of the reasons you joined Augury was how it can positively impact manufacturing. Can you elaborate on that?

I did recognize the potential of the technology and how manufacturing is an industry that directly impacts the consumption of resources. For example, look at potato chips: it may seem banal on one level but you have potatoes and you have oil – two natural resources. If you make the factory more efficient you can save on both – and it’s a fact that cutting food waste can be one of the biggest solutions when it comes to climate change. And in some cases, Augury technology has streamlined the operations of a factory enough that the client no longer had to build another factory. Additionally, on the broad scale, it’s always great to save energy and power, or to close leaks and avoid waste. 

Can you offer something specific a company can do in terms of sustainability?

Metrics. To chart progress, you first need to start measuring to make sure you are actually moving forward. And there are a lot of things we can measure. The co-author of Net Positive, Andrew Winston, runs the website Pivot Goals where he has collected the goals of many different companies – and it’s very inspiring. But here you again, just as with individuals, companies each have to make the first step. You may worry about whether you are measuring the right thing. But just start. You can always try something else. In the end, you will only gain credibility – with partners, customers and internally. And you might be able to inspire your partners and customers to do the same.

But we live in a complex world. How do you measure more complex processes?

Measuring does indeed get more difficult when you look into the depths of technologies, for example cloud computing and AI. The choices are not so obvious, but they are there. You can start by asking your supplier. For instance, if you use a cloud platform like Azure, you can start asking Microsoft about what they are doing about sustainability. You might even find new partners since Microsoft is investing a lot into sustainability. And they’ve actually hired a lot of highly educated and talented people, such as their Chief Environmental Officer. So perhaps you can even partner up with these people and create leverage you didn’t have before. Again, it’s about turning these various ripples into full-blown waves.

If you want to connect on sustainability and cause some waves, feel free to reach out by email.

Read Part 1: ‘Owning Sustainability (1): How You Can Make An Impact At Home And At Work

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