SBC's CEO Kevin Wilhelm shares his perspective on the Ukraine crisis, modern democracy, and sustainable business.
Like many of you, I’ve been paralyzed over these past 12 days wondering what I can do both as an individual and a business leader to make a difference in Ukraine. I made my donations and even booked an immediate Airbnb in Kyiv to get money in Ukrainians’ pockets right away. But it all just seems like a drop in the bucket.
It got me thinking about what we can do as business leaders. There are many examples of large multinationals boycotting Russia and Belarus, but if your company doesn’t have ties to Russia, you’re probably wondering, “what can I do?”
You Can Lean into ESG and Sustainable Business Practices
This may sound contrite, but it’s true. The engine literally fueling this war is being financed by fossil fuels – namely oil and natural gas. And as gas prices skyrocket, the pain is not only being felt at the pump but also as a double whammy on our overstretched supply chains. We as business leaders need to look for ways to reduce our energy consumption and engage our supply chain and policy makers, right now.
Just like in 2008 when oil jumped to $145 per barrel, the impacts were felt by consumers, business leaders, and the economy at large. Yet what often gets lost is that within 6 months, oil dropped back down to $31 per barrel.
Think of the opportunity. Pushing for sustainability policies throughout your organization and supply chain will alleviate price volatility, take pressure off the oil and natural gas market, and tackle the more long-term and existential threat of climate change. That’s just smart business.
What Steps Can You Take?
There are tons of articles flooding the internet right now suggesting actions like carpooling, taking mass transit, and combining trips. These are all true and indeed measures that individuals can take—don’t get me wrong, I support these. However, they are a mere drop in the ocean for what is needed. If you are a business leader, now is the time to do the following:
- Assess your business risk as it relates to fossil fuels.
- Identify opportunities for energy efficiency, conservation, and electrification through your operations.
- Engage your suppliers to find strategies that provide short-term resiliency and put your company on a path towards long-term sustainability. A few examples include offering sustainable supplier financing to support facility upgrades and helping your suppliers uncover areas to switch to clean energy sources.
- Commit to carbon neutrality and create a transition plan to get there by 2030. Your company will need to do this at some point, so take that step today.
- Switch to renewables wherever you can.
- Divest from fossil fuels as a company and in your investments, banking, and 401k plans.
- Offer matching donations to employees who want to make contributions and engage all of your business partners in your efforts.
These are all steps that can make a real difference today and in the long run. Be bold. Take action. Adopting more sustainable business practices defends democracy and is one small way we can all support the brave women and men fighting for their lives in Ukraine.
Kevin Wilhelm is the CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting and a renowned author and teacher on ESG and sustainability issues. Learn more about Kevin here and his company, Sustainable Business Consulting, here.