All of us at Benchmark Digital Partners want to thank the 327 attendees of the 2022 Benchmark ESG Impact Conference. In three short days, we covered a wide range of topics from Sustainability & ESG Impact to Operational Excellence & Compliance—and we did it in style, with 57 speakers and presenters, and 25 sessions.
Fifty-seven speakers means fifty-seven opportunities for fresh insights on where we are in this ESG journey and where we’re headed. Our speakers spoke on a wide range of topics, from the granular, like FieldCore’s Chris McKee breaking down the safety benefits of wearable technologies, to the big-picture, like keynote speaker Andy Karsner’s rousing speech which spoke to the heart of why we do what we do: building a better, safer, healthier world for our families.
There were so many amazing quotes that we felt it was only right to give those of you who couldn’t make the conference a sample of ten of the best! Here are our top 10 quotes from the 2022 Benchmark ESG Impact Conference!
1. “We are coming through this bizarre, unusual, unprecedented pause in our lifetimes—from this pandemic and this plague. We are all feeling something like ‘What’s the meaning of what we do? What wakes me up in the morning? How do I look in the mirror and figure out the consequence of what I’m doing for my family, for my community, for my country, for my world?’ That’s where you guys all are.
It moves me more than I can move you from this podium to reflect and contrast the circles of decision makers, where everyone’s talking about how the world ought to be engineered, with the knowledge that there are indeed engineers and businesspeople with decades of actual experience who have been in the trenches, and are at the frontlines of environmental best practices; who’ve been doing this work for decades and are now watching the puck that they’ve been skating to for a long time, as it arrives at a convergence that makes sense for humanity and nature. So, we can now optimize and fortify good things not just for our business and bottom lines, but for the values you hold when you go home, for the things you want for your community.” – Andy Karsner, United States Assistant Secretary of Energy for Efficiency and Renewable Energy (2005-2008)
2. “EHS and ESG involve everyone, HR, finance, it affects a myriad of people and departments in your company now. The phrase I like to use “It’s no longer your grandfather’s EHS.” You’re not just doing compliance and going along your merry way now.” – Herman Baker, Corporate EHS & Sustainability Director, Carestream
3. “It is a fragmented landscape, with a lot of different groups associated. Clearly, the challenge is engaging all of those groups but also creating a vision for ESG reporting and impact…How do we connect these dots from a broader perspective? We’re not going to wake up 3, 6, 12 months and find that everything is magically consolidated into one system. The reality is that there’s probably going to be more fragmentation. The state of the art in each of those areas represented by ESG continue to evolve and I don’t think it’s practical or realistic that somehow everyone’s going to agree on one system to consolidate and operate all of this.
What we see is that specialization in these areas is what’s driving innovation and that is what’s going to make things better. Continuous evolution in systems is going to happen in every one of these areas. Our challenge is to say, ‘While that’s happening, if you’re responsible for ESG data management and disclosure reporting and performance impact, how do you pull that data so it’s not just a number you collect in March of each year for the previous year with very little access into things you can change in terms of a performance perspective?’ It needs to get more real-time without you having all the systems consolidated.” – R Mukund, CEO, Benchmark Digital Partners, speaking on what drove the creation of the new Data Exchange Portal.
4. “We’ve gone from a team of one person doing it one time, to a team of eight in the private equity team I work for. The interest we get from investors, institutional investors, sovereign wealth funds, has exploded. I’m talking about lenders, financers, the whole private equity community, and it is exciting.” – Gretchen Hancock, ESG Principal, Global Infrastructure Partners
5. “I was talking to with a global company a couple months ago who’s using spreadsheets [to track ESG data] and they know it’s inadequate, they know it doesn’t work, but they don’t know where to go. They don’t know what software solution to go to. They’re paralyzed by how they’ve always done it. If you’re a global company, maybe that’s not the best way to do things. This is not going away. This is not a trend. This is the cost of doing business in the 21st century.” – Dr. Mark McNees, Director of ESG Education, Florida State University
6. “We needed a software system. When I came to WestRock, we used a different system, I’m not going to tell you what it was, but it was never going to work. We had 8+ major systems in use for Health & Safety and what we needed was a common way. We were looking for one system that could serve all 50,000 of our employees, that had unlimited licenses or user ability, we needed it to be flexible and do everything I wanted to do in health and safety. We started a tiger team of functional stakeholders to evaluate different systems and what’s going to work for us. We did an analysis and came up with 7 different vendors, whittled that down to 3, did demos, got the feedback and selected [Benchmark ESG] and it worked out really well for us. The reason why we did that was you look at the capacity of the system and all the different items they can do for you. I was able to take our 8 big systems and eliminate those with one system.” – Allison Montgomery, Vice President Health and Safety, WestRock
7. “What I tell you is, that in the 30-odd some years I’ve been doing this, this is the easiest program I’ve ever implemented. AI Advisor took care of everything. I think it makes us EHS folks more relevant, more contemporary, we’re thinking about technology and how we implement it. People think of safety sometimes as safety glasses and PPE. We want people to think beyond that. It’s exciting for our leaders to spend their time on the things that are most important.” –Dave Roberts, Vice President Environmental Health Safety, The Heico Companies LLC
8. “When we talk about quality, especially in a private equity company, they care about one thing and one thing only: money… The further upstream you catch your issues the cheaper they are to mitigate. When we talk about how we’re leveraging the different capability and modules within Benchmark, it’s where in that process do we catch the issues and, more importantly, what are we doing about them… When I came in, it was very difficult to catch the issues. People working in the field would find a problem, would have to remember that problem when they got back to their hotels, pray their internet was working, open their laptops, find which of the seven Excel spreadsheets they were given that had 85 line items to fill out, remember who to email it to, who emails it to someone else, who a week later would sit around in a committee with people who weren’t out there with the issue and decide whether or not that was a problem. We took that capability and put it right in the hands of the people in the field, mobile capability. It’s now 90 seconds for them to capture an incident in the field.
So, it’s all about the numbers… Last year, our factory had 97% closure rate, 20 day cycle time for fixing issues. Two years ago, the closure rate was in the 40% percentile, and cycle time was over 120 days. If you do address these issues in a timely fashion, there is a real, tangible dollar savings associated with it. Where my leaders get excited is last year, right to the bottom line. 1.1 million in reduction of COPQ, straight up. Really exciting. 20.2 million in savings identified from an issue found in the field, that resulted in an engineering design change that was implemented in the factory, and eliminated the failure node moving forward. Your field employees aren’t having to take time out to fix a problem and spend that time addressing it. We fixed it upstream.” – Michael Melnyk, Head of Quality, North America, TK Elevator
9. “Ultimately, fast-forward 5 or 10 years, when you launch our platform, to be able to have the collective wisdom of everyone in this room already embedded in the platform? That would be the holy grail. The expertise and insights here are the cumulation of decades of being in the field. It’s very hard to come by anymore. How do we capture that? Hopefully with an AI that’s there collectively and can be further evolved and customized. That’s the vision for the future.” – R Mukund
10. “What are investors doing? What are they demanding? What are shareholders saying? Shareholders are demanding more. They want to see capitalism with a degree of intentional conscience. They’re not just doing it because they’re good and upright people. They’re doing it because of mounds and reams of data that suggests you can’t recruit as competitively if you don’t; you can’t retain the best talent as competitively if you don’t, you can’t perform as financially competitively over the medium and long term if you won’t.
Today, this is much more than about keeping people safe with hard hats, equipment and gear. This is about the vitality of your enterprise; your platform in the race for aggregating intellectual capital that will be transformative going forward for us all. Young people don’t want to work in places that they think are not paying conscientious attention to what the future looks like. I know that when you come home and say “I protect people and I’m trying to heal our natural habitat,” your kids will say: “That’s a place I want to work. That’s the career and the future I want to have!” – Andy Karsner
With so many amazing speakers and so many amazing stories, this list truly could have been the top 100 quotes from the conference, but we know you don’t have that kind of time! Whether you attended this year’s conference or not, we hope the words of our speakers has left you feeling enthusiastic about the future of ESG and you and your organization’s place in it!
Though this year’s conference might be over, the challenge of building more sustainable practices around the world is always ongoing! Join our ESG Executive Collaboration Forum LinkedIn group to connect with ESG executives and practitioners from across our subscriber community and let’s keep the conversation going.