SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction Interview Campaign
As part of SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction change-making campaign for 2020 to help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we’re interviewing trailblazing global leaders in sustainability who’re taking the world by storm through their groundbreaking work and impactful contributions to advancing global sustainable development.
The goal is to gain more depth and understanding of sustainable business and development in practice while celebrating leaders’ work to inspire and motivate others to take action in such a crucial era.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Tory Flynn in this regard, Chief Sustainability Officer at Hillenbrand.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: How do you define sustainability and sustainable development, and what does it mean to you?
Sustainability is a rapidly changing field, not regulated, and highly fractured and complex. Because of these complexities – sustainability itself essentially is problem solving for the opportunities of tomorrow. Sustainability is about strategy, sitting at the main table and embedding a critical practice into operations, risk management, and innovation, but that is also a value driver that can link to financial performance. Sustainability is about helping our customers think differently, attracting talent, and using our resources efficiently. It is a practice steeped in continuous improvement and can become transformational for motivating employees, creating customer loyalty, reducing risk, and generating long-term shareholder value.
Tory Flynn speaking at a conference on the importance of internet equality in rural communities.
Q: Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability?
Sustainability is the culmination of my career. My background is steeped in public policy, communications, and community affairs – all functions that require change management, influencing an organization, and connecting to stakeholder feedback. When opportunities to lead initiatives that had a tilt towards ESG came along, I always raised my hand because I saw it as a chance to add value to every function. Hillenbrand gave me the opportunity to become its first Chief Sustainability Officer. This role requires me to stay connected to where we are as a company today, but keep an eye on the future and help Hillenbrand continue moving forward, and also to bring vision and passion to organizational transformation.
Q: How can business help advance sustainable development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
Businesses play an important role where government and non-government organizations cannot. Because of this, we have become more intentional about our stakeholders and the impact we can have with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to help promote favorable outcomes. It is important for businesses to know what their stakeholders deem most “material” to them and align these material topics and objectives to the SDGs to better understand how to harness social impact initiatives for a globally coordinated and targeted effort to achieve these aspirations by 2030.
Tory Flynn stacking cans at a food bank as part of Hillenbrand’s One Campaign Volunteer Initiative.
Q: How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your business strategy to help achieve these goals, and what practices are they?
We are in the beginning stages of our sustainability journey at Hillenbrand and are currently working on formalizing our program and embedding it in the way we do business. We are working to align our structure, culture, systems, and skills to help our employees embed sustainability throughout our company.
Q: Where do you see the world 10 years from now in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals and global sustainable development?
In 2015, many businesses began their journeys to align with SDGs and, while I am encouraged by the progress, I believe we are not even close to achieving the visionary goals. We need many companies to be working toward these goals, with high levels of collaboration across supply chains, economic systems, governments, and economic systems. Critical sectors and nations need to make significant improvements. We can do better in terms of addressing energy, infrastructure, and technology. I read a report that stated, “SDGs won’t be achieved until 2092,” and whether or not that is true, I believe in the future, the world will have far more than 17 key SDGs. While we work to solve the existing challenges, the field of sustainability has taught me there are future problems to be solved that no one is even aware of yet. For the world to address these challenges, we need a level of global partnership fueled by a sense of urgency, unlike anything we have yet experienced.
Cheers to a sustainable world!