Getting it Done: A Mid-Year Update from our COO

Future 500 Chief Operating Officer Erik Wohlgemuth checks in with a peek at we’ve accomplished, and what we have in the works.

The Future 500 team and board recently came together in Northern California for our annual general meeting and staff retreat.

The Future 500 team and board recently came together in Northern California for our annual general meeting and staff retreat.

It’s been a busy year for our team, and we have good things in the works. Here’s a quick update on what we’ve been up to.

Matchmaking and Ideation

We facilitated four highly successful events as part of EarthX, the world’s largest and most diverse Earth Day festival and sustainability conference. Our team was in top form, bringing people together who would not otherwise meet, to hear ideas they would not otherwise hear.

We appreciate that the sustainability conference and corporate working group landscape is crowded, so we work hard, almost obsessively, to design events that are distinctly different and well worthwhile.

We leverage our networks to curate our invite lists and intentionally connect issue experts and decision makers who we know can make great things happen even if they don’t know it yet. One senior corporate leader wrote to me after the fact to express his appreciation: “I typically go to something like this and consider it a success if I get one good idea, or find out about one emerging issue that I need to explore further. With that as context, last week’s meetings were a veritable gold mine.”

The 2020 Opportunity

We’re helping several companies plan for 2020 and beyond. Five upcoming notable events will spotlight social and environmental challenges, and mobilize people across the globe to take action to find solutions. These events include:

  • Hundreds of leading companies set ambitious social and environmental goals for the year 2020, and many of them will fall short. How will “the year we break our promises” (see: topic #1 in our 2019 Force For Good Forecast) impact the power of business as a force for good? Can companies accelerate progress while maintaining their profitability? How will investors, customers, business partners, and advocates respond?

  • Each year more than a billion people recognize Earth Day, the world’s largest secular holiday. This coming year, the 50th anniversary, promises to be the largest to date with companies, advocates, cities, and countries gearing up to celebrate our shared home and to introduce, renew, and strengthen commitments to protect it.

  • Next summer’s Olympic Games in Japan will be organized around “three fundamental principles to change the world” – “achieving our best,” “unity in diversity,” and “passing on a legacy for our future.” 3.6 billion viewers tuned into the 2016 Rio Games, and as with past Olympics, prominent activist groups have already begun stepping up pressure on Olympic sponsors to walk the talk.

  • The November 2020 presidential election will be polarizing, and climate and social equity are emerging as key themes. The narrative is that a grassroots groundswell is at war with a “rigged” system that systematically perpetuates power and privilege at the expense of the general public and natural systems.

  • Within weeks of the U.S. election, representatives of the world’s governments will assemble in Chile for COP 25. The United States has pledged to withdraw from the Paris Accord, but cannot legally actually do so until after the election. Will the world’s largest economy formally pull out, or will a new administration re-engage? Could the current trade wars prompt Paris Agreement signatories to begin levying cross-border carbon tariffs on non-signatory nations?

Foundations and philanthropists will consider these five events as they ramp up their giving to climate and oceans advocates and move justice and equity to the fore. This grant making will undoubtedly increase stakeholder risk for many companies, but it will also create interesting C-Suite leadership opportunities.

Getting it Done

Under the broader banner of the “2020 Opportunity” (topic #10 in our Forecast), our team is proactively connecting companies, advocates and experts to help them engage constructively in finding common-ground solutions. Specifically, we’re helping companies:

  • Organize and facilitate External Stakeholder Councils to educate and inform both leaders and stakeholder participants.

  • Conduct issue-prioritization assessments, which are often referred to as materiality assessments. We have the expertise and relationships to bring in diverse stakeholders across a company’s core activities, value chain, and sectors.

  • Develop corporate, industry and public policy approaches that address plastics and packaging circularity. Building on our expertise in extended producer responsibility (EPR) and systems thinking, we are working with producers, converters, chemical suppliers, brands and their respective associations to foster mutual understanding and collaborative opportunities with investors and advocates.

Across all of this work, we are helping companies benefit from candid, constructive feedback from their harshest critics.

Force For Good Gets Even Better

As we look to the second half of the year, watch for our individual team experts to check in with analysis and updates on our Force For Good Forecast.

We are pleased to welcome Dawn Rittenhouse, former head of Sustainable Development at DuPont, to our board. We anticipate adding one to two additional directors before year-end to replace Greg Voelm and Aileen Ichikawa, two fabulous long-standing board members who are concluding more than a decade of service. We can’t thank them enough for lending their time, treasure, and talent to us over the years. They are part of our family and they will be missed but never forgotten.

Ours is a polarized world and while we see great promise in the next 18 months, we also expect conflict and distrust. We believe our work is more critical than ever. Our team will be leaning in to identify and align companies with stakeholders to find solutions.

Please get in touch if we can ever be of service. Have a great summer!


Blog posts by Erik: