Skip to main content

ESG Still Thriving and Other Takeaways from GreenBiz

Green Biz 2024

Zeno attended this year’s GreenBiz conference – a 2,500+ person gathering of professionals across the responsible business spectrum, from communicators and marketers to technical experts in topics as wide-ranging as regenerative agriculture, carbon emissions and sustainable packaging.  

We heard from corporate leaders, CSOs and practitioners from Danone*, KIND*, Salesforce and Cargill, as well as NGOs like Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and National Indian Carbon Council. Overwhelmingly, we got the impression that ESG is the opposite of “dead,” as recent headlines have claimed. In fact, business is creating value for stakeholders and driving exciting innovation that are helping solve society’s most pressing challenges. 

Here are a few themes that came up frequently throughout the conference: 

  1. ESG must be the responsibility of the entire business, not just a standalone team. 

To advance ESG priorities as a strategic business driver, every individual within the company should be contributing to those efforts, regardless of title or department. In a session titled, “Decarbonization is a Team Sport,” Delta Air Lines outlined how while its sustainability team takes the lead of identifying potential targets, it works with the rest of the organization to define, implement and execute those targets. This ensures that ESG will be ingrained in the decision-making processes and day-to-day activities, generating more comprehensive positive impact.  

  1. Greenhushing is not risk-free. It stalls your strategy and can disappoint stakeholders.  

With the new SEC greenhouse gas disclosure regulations announced on March 6, and increasing scrutiny of sustainability claims in markets like the UK, France and Australia, more companies have leaned toward greenhushing. GreenBiz hosted vigorous discussions around greenhushing, with the most important takeaway being that it is not a “safe” pathway. KIND shared how the brand translated the complex topic of regenerative agriculture into tangible content for KIND fans through a virtual tour – while also addressing the almond industry’s water use.  

  1. Moving the needle on climate progress requires collaboration.  

Unsurprisingly, operationalizing how companies address climate change was a key theme, with lots of inspiring stories. Like Timberland before it, Allbirds measures its carbon footprint at the product level, but it also shares its the tools with the industry, including downloadable spreadsheets and labels, and calls on consumers to hold the fashion industry accountable. 

  1. Goals should integrate with the business’ overall objectives.  

Linking ESG goals with what drives the business forward – and with how it’s measured – is essential. It not only contributes to positive social and environmental outcomes but also enhances financial performance, risk management and overall corporate resilience. Three newly appointed Chief Sustainability Officers emphasized the importance of integrating ESG initiatives into existing day-to-day business goals during a “How We Built This” session. This approach encourages employees to actively engage and go the extra mile in advancing sustainability programs.  

We left Phoenix inspired to continue partnering with our clients on this responsible business journey that is so critical for our shared future – one that Zeno itself is on. While we know that there will be roadblocks along the way, it’s clear that business integration, storytelling, cross-sector collaboration and strong goals will propel meaningful progress. 

*Indicates Zeno client