Over 100 managers, entrepreneurs, and CEOS came together for the first Lean Green Day from France, Belgium and Switzerland from a diverse set of industries. The imperative for these leaders is clear: while society today is the most prosperous and dynamic the world has ever created, our natural systems are under unprecedented stress.
The Institut Lean France and the Lean Green Institute recognize the seriousness of this situation and it was our hope that this first conference would start the conversation and experimentation on how Lean can be an effective strategy to help companies engineer a better way to operate.
After a summer of record breaking tropical storms, heat, and forest fires, scientists continue to demonstrate how the planet has been torqued out of a stable system into uncharted territory. Examples include sobering warnings that 92% of the world’s population live in places where air quality is unsafe, according to the World Health Organization, and that we may face a 40% shortfall in the freshwater that we need to support our global economy by 2030. The hard truth is that current national commitments under the Paris Agreement would likely need to double to prevent global warming by 2C.
With risks to our environment so large and so urgent, transformative change is critical for companies to survive this century. Steve Hope, General Manager of Environmental Affairs and Corporate Citizenship at Toyota Motor Europe, discussed the traditional, fossil-fueled powered, automaker’s impact on society. As the consumer middle class grows, the demand for cars will increase, adding devastating stress on our natural resources, climate, and society. Thinking Long term and systematically, Toyota set forth 6 Environmental Challenges that are an integral part of the company’s business strategy, powered by hydrogen and the circular economy.
Any company can set big goals. The difficulty is in execution. Toyota shared with us how they plan to reach the Environmental Challenges by 2050 through backcasting (the opposite of “forecasting”) 5 year plans that hold top management accountable.
Step by step, every Toyota employees and partners is expected to think about local solutions throughout the entire lifecycle of production, like the examples we saw from the La Rochelle dealership and Valenciennes factory.
As well as on a macro scale, such as designing cars to be almost completely recyclable.
It’s not surprising that automakers are thinking about sustainability, but we mustn’t forget about the growing, hidden waste in our economy from digital technology. Technology is often anticipated to be one of champions to realize a green economy, and while it has enabled us to more efficient, it is ripe with waste as Frederic Bordage, founder and director of GreenIT.fr and Edmond Nguyen, Lean IT Academy Coach, explained in their presentation. Operational waste (defects, overproduction, etc) requires unnecessary amounts of energy, water, and natural resources and will only grow as technology becomes more integrated into our lives, objects, and relationships.
The lean and green IT solution is to provide engineers better training to be able to improve upon existing conditions, both software and hardware, instead of creating a completely new solution each time a problem is encountered. Optimizing existing conditions allowed a case study company to avoid opening a massive data center. When resources are reduced, so are costs, creating a win for all stakeholders.
Flavie Blanchet-Gacic, Environmental manager at SNCF et Benoit Aliadiere, Director of Project Ecoconception at SNCF Réseau, demonstrated that one static solution, no matter how elegant or robust, will not be effective in a fast-changing world and climate. We need dynamic and agile solutions that involve as many brains and perspectives as possible to think deeply about better ways of working in collaboration with the planet.
But even the best ideas and processes won’t take root unless the CEO is on board with an eco-strategy. As we heard from Toyota Europe and also from Jean-Claude Bihr, CEO of Alliance, top management must be committed to both Lean and Green. Jean-Claude showcased the type of leadership required to lead this transformation and also the role of a leader, to create the conditions for people to give the best of themselves to solve our greatest problems.
Jean-Claude Bihr also demonstrated how lean, in many ways by default, is a better production method to preserve our natural resources than other operational methods. With a dedication to quality and minimizing stocks we reduce unnecessary waste by only making what is ordered, and doing it right the first time.
Bruno Thomas, startup founder of Classe.io, and Marc Villemon, Green IT manager at RTE, showed us with IT examples how to solve green problems in a “Lean” way. Bruno demonstrated how A3 thinking provided the framework to create a superior green product while completely satisfying his customer.
Marc showed us how small improvements add up to a big result over time. In our companies, we need to embrace these small improvements not just for the collective resource reduction but also to keep our team members engaged and plugged in. The feeling of contribution will keep employees motivated and engaged. Even with an idea that flops, there’s rarely detrimental harm that comes from staying “yes” to an employee’s idea. But saying “no” can shut a door that might not open again. To change everything, we need everyone thinking and committed to thinking Lean and Green.
As we debate the death of capitalism, the combustion engine, and the rise of artificial intelligence and automation, the one thing that’s clear is that what got us here, won’t help us arrive at an ideal future. Jasha Oosterbaan, Director of the Center on Environment and Sustainable Development at Mines ParisTech, explained how the circular economy offers refreshing solutions to end the destruction of our take-make-waste society while still encouraging productivity and economic growth. At the center of the theory is the idea that waste should not exist and a responsibility to create new sources of value. These are virtues in common with the Lean methodology, and a dovetail approach could help each achieve more effectiveness.
The next generation will be faced with compounded environmental challenges, and we heard from the students behind the social start-up EcoCircular on their quest to explore the benefits and consequences of the circular economy. Lean can make these new holistic economic models sustainable for the long term by eliminating waste, providing more value, and promoting continuous improvement.
A giant merci to everyone who made the first Lean Green Day a success!
Do you have an idea for a presentation for next year?
Would you like to get involved? Send us your thoughts : KSinger@leangreeninstitute.com