Wednesday, November 20, 2019
USBCSD’s Andrew Mangan Works to Advance Sustainability Region by Region
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Andrew Mangan, co-founder and executive director of the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (USBCSD). As a Global Network Partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, USBCSD works to create and deliver value-driven sustainable development projects.
As Andrew explained to me, “the USBCSD is an action-oriented and member-led business association that gives U.S. businesses a platform to mobilize boots on the ground and work together to design, implement and scale sustainability solutions.”
The Council currently has four areas of focus:
· Facilitating company-to-company industrial reuse opportunities that support the culture shift to a circular, closed-loop economy
· Establishing regional cross-industry carbon reduction collaboratives aimed at reducing carbon emissions and impacts while preserving and enhancing economic vitality
· Creating replicable business solutions for improving watershed collaboration between stakeholders to reduce shared water risks
· Identifying and implementing member-led projects to conserve or enhance ecosystems while creating new business value and benefit to communities where they operate
In my discussion with Andrew, he shared how he has seen the sustainability field shift in the past 30 years, as well as what excites him the most about it today.
MK: At USBCSD, you are facilitating a culture shift among organizations toward a circular closed-loop economy. Where is the U.S. in this shift? What more is needed to accelerate the shift?
AM: Here in the U.S., there is a lot going on; it’s a major shift and will require a lot of understanding from within companies – not just by the sustainability team but also the procurement, legal, and acquisitions teams. They are needed to actually implement the shift.
It is going to take a while, but a lot of good things are happening already. I’m seeing support from the top – from CEOs – for the concept of circularity. Government is also intrigued by the concept – especially State-level government given that they are the ones tasked with implementing the Federal Waste Management Regulations and submitting 2030 Waste Strategies to the U.S. EPA. Also, none of the States want to permit another landfill, and some states are really struggling with limited landfill space. The Council has been working with three states – Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee – with their State Environmental Commissions and State Economic Development Corporations and the private sector to establish systems that promote circular economies. Together, we are looking at recycling infrastructure, government funding incentives, and whether current regulations are preventing desired outcomes.
MK: Many of the initiatives that USBCSD has incubated have been regional – not sector-specific – in scope. What is the value of this approach?
AM: We find this approach works really well because companies that are in a region feel ownership of that region, whether its’s the Gulf Coast, Great Lakes, or New England – we find there is a real affinity for collaboration. It’s also a lot easier to get a company focused on a sub region of the U.S. than on the whole country. A lot of our regional efforts are bringing together companies that have common objectives – whether on water, materials, or carbon – but that aren’t organized to work together in an effective way. An example is in the Gulf Coast where we are bringing together companies around decarbonization. They have done a lot internally but not across industries, which is key to moving ahead.
MK: During your time with USBCSD, how have you seen the field of sustainability change?
AM: In the late 1980s, people weren’t really sure what sustainability was … it took 10 to 15 years to get agreement on what the issues, challenges, and opportunities were. Then, the discussion shifted to what do we do about it. A lot has been done internally within companies, but now there is a growing recognition that you can’t do it on your own or even within an industry. There has been an evolution in external engagement and finding effective ways to bring in other sectors – including the academic sector – to solve major challenges.
MK: Is there a greater sense of urgency than in the past to tackle sustainability?
AM: A big change recently is seeing the investment community really stepping up – from communications to CEOs on carbon, the circular economy, and natural resources. They are telling CEOs that if they don’t see their companies moving on this, they will pull them out of their investments. That is accelerating and making it more urgent for companies.
MK: What in the work among your members excites you the most and why?
AM: The Gulf Coast Carbon Collaborative. We will be launching in New Orleans in early December. It will be business-led, business-organized and business-driven.
MK: What impact will the US’ decision to leave the Paris Agreement have on the efforts of U.S. companies?
AM: It’s disappointing to see the U.S. pull out of a global agreement. But, it’s not impacting what we are doing. Companies are moving ahead and are driven by other forces. There is still strong corporate commitment to the agreement.