By Erin Cristales, Vizient
Back when Joseph Dixon founded the Sustainability Leadership Forum nearly 15 years ago, the former college hoops player began the tradition of tossing a basketball to each attendee as a "you’re it" for introductions. The ball represented three things, he said. Teamwork ("With the right team, you’ll get back on track even if you are lost, and you have a place to celebrate the wins"); excellence ("It’s about taking it to the next level"); and fun ("If we’re not having fun as a group, it’s not going to be sustainable").
The metaphor remains the same, but now he’s replaced the familiar orange orb with a multicolored soccer ball he recently picked up from the United Nations, which features the organization’s 17 sustainable development goals. Vizient maps to six of those goals — one reason, perhaps, that the environmental responsibility ball was placed squarely in Vizient's home court as the host of this year’s Dallas-area Sustainability Leadership Forum.
The forum — which takes place five times a year in six cities across the U.S., with an additional All-City Summit bringing all locations together once a year — is a gathering of likeminded sustainability VPs and directors of Global 1000 companies to identify and address the complex issues regarding environmental and societal problems and develop best practices to implement within their businesses. The host of each forum chooses the topic, with Vizient selecting "net zero" as the 2022 focus.
"It aligns with the work we did with the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and the fact that we’re on the National Academy of Medicine’s Action Collaborative on Decarbonizing the U.S. Health Sector," said Terri Scannell, senior social responsibility director. "When we did our materiality assessment in 2021, carbon and climate change became material topics for our stakeholders. So, setting goals toward net zero and learning from other leading companies about how they’re doing this is important for Vizient as we remain leaders in this space."
At the event, a dozen execs from top local companies — such as Johnson & Johnson, T-Mobile, Caterpillar, Stryker and Ericsson — worked to increase their understanding of net zero, devise actionable next steps and discover which local companies or resources can best help them take those steps. The attendees were looking for everything from learning to connection to out-of-the-box solutions.
And that’s exactly what Dixon and Scannell worked to provide. After all, their commitment to sustainability is personal. For Dixon, who started his sustainability mission in the 1990s, it was to pick a life journey that his kids could appreciate, especially as adults. For Scannell, it’s to ensure that patients, providers and the planet stay as healthy, equitable and vibrant as possible.
And yes, it’s an uphill expedition, they say. But you have to celebrate each successful step along the way.
"Sustainability is a long-term play," Dixon said. "It’s a marathon, not a sprint."
"It’s true," Scannell added. "We’re always learning from leaders in other industries about leading practices and what works and what does not."