Turning Objectives into Action with Thomas Udesen

On Wednesday 27th April, Supplier Day hosted and participated in Vizibl’s Decade of our Lives: Turning Objectives into Action, their third event in a series of webinars spotlighting the most planet critical missions: Climate, Carbon, and the Scope 3 Challenge. We were joined by Thomas Udesen, CPO of Bayer and Co-Founder of The Sustainable Procurement Pledge, who shared his insights into how corporations can turn their ESG objectives into concrete action.

As part of Vizibl’s Decade of our Lives: Turning Objectives into Action webinar, Caitlyn Lewis, CEO and Founder of Supplier Day, was joined by Procurement experts Jacklin Wienczierz, Head of Supplier Sustainability and Climate Initiatives at Clariant, and Thomas Udesen, CPO of Bayer and Co-Founder of The Sustainable Procurement Pledge, as they delved into some of the hurdles organisations face when turning their objectives around sustainability into concrete action. 

Each guest speaker shared insights into their company’s progression, and their own experiences, in striving for sustainability. Throughout the webinar, they helped spotlight their opinions to frequently asked questions, including

  • Why has sustainability become such a huge focus in recent years?
  • Why are companies struggling to implement their sustainability initiatives within their organisation and supply chain?
  • And what elements should organisations begin to recognise as a sign to do more?

In a 1-1 interview with Thomas Udesen, Thomas actively acknowledged sustainability “as a place that offers us access to the solutions of tomorrow”, and discussed more on the different elements all organisations should have in place to successfully embark on their sustainability initiatives. 


Organisations must recognise the need for implementation and action!


This need for change within organisations is a direct shift from the existing system which, due to hundreds of years of industrialisation, has created a large dependency on fossil fuels. Converting this system into something that is more sustainable is a huge feat that organisations are beginning to understand is less a race and more a marathon; it “requires you to roll up the sleeves and start right now”. 

“We’ve had enough talk. This is about implementation and action”, Thomas commented, further stating that, “we don’t need more vocabulary [around sustainability], a lot of the vocabulary exists. So it’s important that we all converge our activities to that vocabulary” 

Organisations need to push away from the conference tables and start the implementation of their ideas ASAP! Unfortunately, the time for discussion and debate has passed, and the results desired across industries are now only achievable through concrete actions. 


We need to break away from the idea of ‘Portrayed Perfection’


Organisations want to be perceived as perfect in the eyes of their market. To them, flaws and faults are detrimental to their image. The pressure to be perfect means that leaders and practitioners alike fear making mistakes or failing in their endeavours. And becomes reason enough to not try at all. This is a severe hindrance for any organisation striving toward sustainability. 

Thomas notes the importance of having brave individuals within organisations who are willing to see any failures or imperfections as a way to grow, rather than a judgement on their own, or their team’s, abilities. 


“It’s not perfect, but we will work together to fix it”


You need to have the right kind of individuals within your organisation


Carrying on from his last point around brave individuals, Thomas mentioned the positive impact that an organisation can create when they bring in people who possess the right capabilities, but also the right attitude and potential. 

“It’s more about potential rather than experience” 

Reflecting on his own experiences, Thomas stressed the need to establish a culture in which we are prepared to listen and develop a “constructive dialogue”. Leveraging the experience of those with diverse backgrounds can help enrich key conversations and highlight any potential shortcoming within an organisation. The framework for this dialogue should be developed to make organisations “stronger and better”, especially in their efforts to develop and implement sustainability strategies. 


So what are our key takeaways from all this?


You cannot make meaningful change on your own.


Creating concrete actions is not something that can be done in isolation. Whether it is having the right kind of people within your organisation or working closely with your suppliers, figuring out the best way to tackle your Scope 3 emissions requires a plethora of like-minded and dedicated individuals who can work together. 

Everyone wants to make a difference, but when you choose to work together you can harness your skills, expertise, and overall bargaining power to not only make a difference but to create the biggest impact for your consumers, stakeholders, and supply chain.  


Failure is not the end!


Failure may seem like the end, but it is not! It is the foundation for new discussions, new priorities, and new development. 


“If you haven’t failed, you haven’t tried enough”


We need to progress out of this culture where failure is seen as a black mark on performance or capabilities, not just for individuals but entire organisations. This mentality highly restricts any inclination to keep trying, and for many, would even stop them from starting in the first place. 


So how can we do better? By starting, and staying, on your journey for sustainability no matter the failures you encounter on the way. The unpleasant experiences you may face pales in comparison to the potential devastation to this planet and its people should we refuse to take any action at all. This is why it is important to remember that failure does not mean the end, but stopping all efforts certainly does!