Green Shoots | Stories from companies for our planet

What are Green Shoots?

Green shoots are the first signs of improvement in a poorly performing economy. On the Insights blog, Jean Callanan writes weekly stories about Green Shoots as a sign of hope. It refers to companies that make a positive contribution to our planet. Learn more about why Jean Callanan started writing about Green Shoots and why we need them now.

Green Shoots - Showcasing one sustainable business per week

Jean Callanan on first lessons from three months of blogging

1. The power inherent in conversation about important things.

In a recent interview for Business Sustainability Today I was asked what had changed in the months I have been writing the blog. on reflection I realised it was the conversations I have been having with people. Talking about the blog and my intention with it, opened up important and insightful conversations that might otherwise not have happened. Margaret J. Wheatley‘s words “Very great change starts from very small conversations, held among people who care” inspire me and give me the courage to continue with the blog.

2. Greenwashing is everywhere!

I hadn’t anticipated quite so much greenwashing, often from companies that I expected better of (but then I am an optimist). On several occasions I came across brands that I thought were perfect examples of inspiring stories of businesses innovation to create a better world, only to discover that their parent companies were far from #sustainable and had cynically launched new #sustainablebrands , in order to claim green credentials. (Good examples of #greenwashing in this blog from Akepa.)

3. It’s challenging to compare apples and pears.

Identifying companies that are “best in class” in some sectors is really hard. Most big companies report on ESG, but they measure different things, and it’s clear that many are selective with the truth or are guilty of deliberate obfuscation. This will change from the beginning of 2025, here in Europe anyway, when EU law requires all large companies and all listed companies to report in a standard way on #esg . And while the law only applies to very large companies, any company which is a stakeholder upstream or downstream is likely to be compelled for business reasons to start to measure their ESG impact, leading to much more transparency.

4. “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity, not a threat” (Steve Jobs). 

I recently attended a Chapter Zero Ireland event here in Dublin on the forthcoming ESG reporting requirements. There was a lot of worry expressed about the challenges facing companies and their advisors in implementing these reporting requirements. What was largely missing from the conversation was the massive opportunities for innovation that the legislation will unleash. I gave the example of having been brand manager of Surf detergent (Unilever) in the UK at an early stage of my career – if I was in that role now my innovation landscape would be completely revolutionised. Our compulsory reporting measurement and reporting on scope 2 and 3 emissions would mean I would be looking upstream to see how we could formulate the products using ingredients with lower environmental footprints. And I would be looking downstream to product innovations that would require less water and lower temperatures, and make clothes more stain-resistant to reduce washing so they last longer. It’s a paradigm shift in innovation! In writing the blog I have particularly loved examples of outside-in thinking, where companies or brands have looked to the big challenges their country/region/world is facing, and then thought about how they could use their particular skillset, profitably, to address these challenges. My blogs on Knorr Future 50 Foods and The An Post Green Hub are two great examples of the innovation derived from outside-in thinking.

5. I should ask more for help!

I set out to write this blog as a personal task. But trying to write blogs about areas that I have limited expertise in, like banking or insurance, has proved a very challenging task. I am learning, as so many have before, that creating a better world isn’t a one-person task. So over the next nine months of this blog I will be welcoming occasional guest bloggers, starting with fellow Independent Non-Executive Director Aedín O’Leary (Ní Laoire) who will write a Green Shoot blog about a Finance company over the next few weeks. If you have suggestions of companies or organisations that should be featured here, or would like to join me as a guest blogger, please let me know.

6. “We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand” (Cecil Day Lewis).

Writing this blog has been an education. The research that each blog takes, the questions I ask myself and need to answer, are giving me a far greater understanding of what is going on, and that is changing my behaviour. Writing one blog, Good On You – Shining A Light on the Rather Unsustainable World of Fashion, has changed my behaviour, both in relation to buying new clothes, and online shopping. I am currently participating on the Independent Non-Executive Directors’ group on the Green Team Network Irish Funds Climate Challenge. We are each being challenged to change our behaviours and log climate friendly activities that reduce CO2 emissions and contribute to the overall team reduction of CO2. Yet more education, but with a competitive fun twist!

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