The State of the Sustainability Profession 2019
In September 2019, the Sustainability University brought together more than hundred sustainability professionals during the fourth edition of the State of the Sustainability Profession. At this unique annual event CSR and sustainability professionals meet and learn from their colleagues in other companies. Highly experienced CSR managers as well as upcoming sustainability talents share their challenges and insights. The plenary session and peer-to-peer workshops focus on the central question: ‘how do I implement sustainability effectively in my organization and what are the challenges and solutions in practice?’ As the Sustainability University recently started a new project on Circle Economy (CE) competences in collaboration with the Goldschmeding Foundation, this edition of the State of the Sustainably Profession also focused on how to accelerate circular economy in and for business.
Annual Survey & Reflection
The sustainability profession is a young and developing profession. The participants contributed to the annual Survey State of the Profession. Answers to questions like: ‘what did we achieve?’, ‘how much did we earn?’ and ‘what should be the next step?’ enables the Sustainability University to get insights and further facilitate the development of the profession. Carola Wijdoogen presented the survey results. These show us that the sustainability professionals want to become more innovative and strategic, but spend most time in their coordinating and stimulating roles. Surprisingly, monitoring CSR implementation as well as integration of sustainability in Finance and IT were considered less important.
CSR managers Alberic Pater (IKEA) and Yoeri Schenau (Arcadis) reflected on the results and Mike van der Weerd (CFO Engie) and Elfrieke van Galen (Sustainability University) state the importance of the cooperation between the CSR manager and the Financial director in order to get financial approval for sustainable projects and business model.
As in previous years many different workshops, given by experienced CSR managers, offer the opportunity to address challenges that CSR professionals encounter in their profession. The topics varied from convincing your board, creating circular economy business models and products to job classification, salary and competencies of sustainability professionals. During the workshop ‘Innovator role and CE business models’, hosted by Esther Verburg (Tommy Hilfiger), ideas and solutions were shared how to overcome juridical obstacles and how to align your organization and consumers when setting up circular business models.
In the workshop ‘Innovator role and CE product development: everything becomes new’, Alberic Pater (IKEA) shared the tools necessary to successfully implement a Circular Economy project, using an inspiring sailing analogy: When starting a project, determine where does the wind comes from and who’s on the boat. In other words, hook onto what drives your organization and look at what capacity each of your project members have? Furthermore, the Sustainability University directors themselves shared their insights during their own workshops: Carola Wijdoogen focused on the necessary competences to accelerate in Circular Economy, using the competences mentioned in her book ‘MVO doe je ZO ’. Elfrieke van Galen discussed the financial aspects of the sustainability profession. “This was the second time that I joined an workshop on the financial aspects of the profession. It was very interesting to see how this is an ongoing process and I’m looking forward to see where we stand next year.” said one of the participants.
Networking & Award
During lunch, breaks and drink there was enough opportunity to network. The participants shared that they felt inspired by the experiences of the workshop’s leaders and the learnings from their fellow sustainability professionals. “It was a great opportunity to meet and learn from other people that are all working on the sustainability topic driven by their intrinsic motivation.” – to quote one of the participants. A new and circular element this year was the ‘Sustainable Professional Impact Award’, which was handed out to Geanne van Arkel (Interface) for her dedication to develop and professionalize sustainability.
The Sustainability University would like to thank all sustainability professionals who attended the event and for sharing their experiences with their peers.
At the request of many the next and 5th edition of the State of the Sustainability Profession will take place on 15 September 2020. During this special Lustrum edition, we will again offer you the unique peer-to-peer learning and meeting opportunities, and share new insights on skills needed to be successful in Circular Economy. And who knows, maybe you will win the Sustainable Professional Impact Award this year!
You can already get your early bird ticket. Or you become a member of the Sustainability University Campus and attend the SOP 2020 for free. Click the button below to find your option.