Sustainability meets business with supply chain lecture

February 16, 2018

Sustainability and business are often juxtaposed as two ideals on opposite sides of the spectrum. A robust attendance of campus and community members turned out to learn about this timely topic from Caitlin Clarke, Senior Fellow for Corporate Supply Chains at The Nature Conservancy, and Daniel Hutter, Chief Sustainability Officer for Spectrum Brands, Inc., two experts in sustainability management. Clark and Hutter were invited to speak about sustainable business practices at the “Sustainability, Supply Chains, and Earth Stewardship: Convergences and Conflicts,” lecture on Thursday, February 15, 2018.

Both Hutter and Clarke have extensive expertise finding solutions to solve large-scale environmental problems within corporate management. In addition to his sustainability role, Hutter is a member of Spectrum Brand’s legal team and brings 20 years of experience in corporate citizenship, international trade, government and regulatory affairs, and risk and compliance management. Clarke’s work focuses on finding ways to solve large-scale environmental problems by aligning corporate procurement decisions with the Conservancy’s long-standing expertise in land management and conservation science.

They both see a clear path for sustainability and conservation to direct successful business strategies. For Hutter, sustainability means doing things more efficiently, and doing things more efficiently means higher profits for the bottom line. Although he thinks sustainability and business are currently a bit at odds, he believes sustainability will be a catalyst for profit in the future.

“People want to know what’s in their product, people wants to know where their product came from and people want to know they’re not being greenwashed,” Hutter said. Greenwashing is the practice of promoting environmentally friendly programs to deflect attention from an organization's environmentally unfriendly or less savory activities.

Clarke was concerned with the system of consumer choices which ultimately lead to business models that aren’t friendly to the environment. She believes business leaders should look towards innovations that don’t involve selling more products, but rather increasing market place value. “We have an economy that is very much built on selling people more things all the time. I don’t think we can keep that up indefinitely,” Clarke said.

The public event was hosted in partnership with the Wisconsin School of Business Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management. Paul Robbins, Director of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, and Jake Dean, Director, Grainger Center for Supply Chain Management, Wisconsin School of Business, served as co-moderators.


photo credit: Paul L. Newby II, Wisconsin School of Business