Tim Hortons serves up a cup of sustainability

TORONTO—Tim Hortons Inc. has been executing its commitment to sustainability for 12 months now. The initiative, borne out of investor interest, required a very necessary risk assessment process to really get off the ground, said a company exec.

Assessing risk at the outset entailed interviewing business executives during the strategy development process to determine their priorities for sustainability, explained Tim Faveri, Tim Hortons director of sustainability and responsibility.

Once in execution mode, those very same executives were assigned the task of building and owning business goals, for the program that would later be called “Making a Difference,” based on the priorities they had shared.

“That’s very important to talk the business language … because that’s what they understand,” said Faveri during a panel discussion at the Sustainability in Business Summit, organized by SAP AG and The University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business.

Faveri said Tim Hortons built a governance structure around its sustainability initiative so business leaders could be held accountable and the program could be managed cross-functionally.

Sustainability initiatives require business processes to ensure accurate and clean data is being captured to measure progress, said panelist Deborah Kaplan, sustainability industry principal with SAP. “You can’t just use a spreadsheet,” said Kaplan.

For instance, an organization cannot simply add up kilowatt hours of electrical energy consumption across dispersed assets because each jurisdiction calculates carbon impact differently per kilowatt hour, said Kaplan.

It’s often quite tricky for organizations to understand metrics in a manner that is relevant to that particular business such as “this action took this many cars off the road,” said Kaplan. Data from social media channels is particularly hard to deal with because businesses don’t know how to weigh nor communicate that information, she said.

SAP, itself, has reduced its carbon footprint by 15 per cent. The company maintains a real-time measurement of its sustainability progress at this Web site.

Another panelist, Valerie Chort, national leader for sustainability & climate change services with Deloitte, said that organizations must identify the areas of the business that will shape the sustainability initiative, then build business processes into those areas.

Organizations must also build an appropriate reporting infrastructure to cut down on time spent creating reports, said Chort. “Instead of reporting, you’re actually doing something with all that information,” she said.

Moreover, less time spent producing reports means talent can be liberated to do other more interesting tasks, said Chort.

At Tim Hortons, Faveri said that having 1,400 independent store proprietors adhere to the sustainability initiative whittled down to behavioural change. It helped to have a well-thought plan that then could be pushed to its stores in a language familiar to store owners, said Faveri.

He also noted that measuring progress will be vital moving forward. “Data integrity and data management are gong to be very important to us,” said Faveri.

Follow Kathleen Lau on Twitter: @KathleenLau

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