The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) talks climate change

By Wai-Chan Chan, Managing Director, The Consumer Goods Forum
The window in which we can stop the worst of the climate crisis is rapidly closing. But there is still time to act - Wai-Chan Chan, MD, CGF

The next decade is crucial in determining whether or not future generations, and business, will thrive. At this critical juncture, the decisions we take today have irrevocable consequences for the wellbeing of people, communities and our planet. Every boardroom must embrace this truth – and the opportunities it presents. 

We can do this. We can build a more resilient world, in which no-one is left behind. And the way that we can do this is through collaboration. By pulling together, we can rise to the challenge of climate change and the linked increase in global inequality. 

The reality is, we cannot continue as we are. In the short timeframe we have left, businesses must put co-operation over competition. With an ethos of partnership, we can share knowledge and combine resources to innovate and adapt. To meet the scale of the challenges we face, business must evolve. The age of corporate collectivity is upon us. 

The unique insights of the pandemic can steer us in the right direction. By intensifying many of the challenges our world faces, the pandemic highlighted the intertwined relationship between business, society and the environment. It also shone a light on inequalities, as vulnerable communities experienced additional hardships. We witnessed what could happen when we pull together around shared challenges – and that we are better together. These learnings must act as a catalyst for faster, deeper change.  

The consumer goods sector was at the very forefront of mitigating the worst economic impacts of the pandemic. At The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), the only CEO-led organisation that brings consumer goods retailers and manufacturers together globally, our members worked tirelessly to ensure that vital goods continued to move along supply chains and onto retailers’ shelves. At the same time, they strove to protect the health and wellbeing of their employees and customers, while making important progress on tackling key issues like plastic waste and deforestation. It has been a very complex time that has made the industry rethink how it operates. And yet, this is only the start of much bigger change. 

Great strides have been made in accelerating positive action, but we must all challenge ourselves to go much further. The science demands this. If the world is to meet the goals of The Paris Agreement – to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and thereby keep the Earth habitable – we must all do more. The role of business leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs in generating positive solutions has never been more important. We need to reinvent ourselves for this new era. Co-operation is key.

Collaboration was at the very heart of this year’s CGF Global Summit, which took place recently at The Convention Centre in Dublin. A landmark event, it offered industry leaders a unique chance to come together to build the future. We reflected on solutions to the immense challenges – and opportunities – ahead. Focused on ‘Resilience and Reinvention: Responsible Growth in the New Era’, the Summit illustrated what happens when businesses work in partnership, with a focus on the collective good.  An array of high-profile speakers came together, including James Quincey, Chairman & CEO of The Coca-Cola Company; Alan Jope, CEO of Unilever; and Ken Murphy, Group CEO of Tesco. 

Of course, collaborating on vital social and environmental issues doesn’t mean that businesses must put aside competition on essential commercial areas like pricing, product or brand. But at CGF, we see first-hand the benefits of coming together to address shared challenges. 

For example, our Forest Positive Coalition of Action launched its first Annual Report last year, bringing together retailers and manufacturers to publicly report against metrics to end commodity-driven deforestation – an important milestone to increase collective transparency. In addition, members of our AnchorPlastic Waste Coalition of Action, collectively representing more than 10 percent of the global plastic packaging market, have united around a series of best practice rules for plastic design, production and recycling – helping to accelerate a circular economy. 

It’s not just a question of doing the right thing. It’s also about securing a better future for business. Consumers, employees, investors and partners are rewarding those businesses who do the right thing. If businesses fail to act, they will get left behind.

Profound change is already underway. Extreme weather patterns, soaring temperatures, flooding events and sea levels are all on the rise – alongside a cost of living crisis that is putting significant pressure on communities. Businesses have an unprecedented responsibility. Society’s urgent global problems cannot be solved by government, non-profits or citizens alone. Every company must step up. Only by working collaboratively can we go further and do more, ensuring better lives through better business. 

About Wai-Chan Chan

Wai-Chan Chan is the Managing Director of The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) and brings to the role more than 25 years of retail and FMCG experience globally, with a particular focus on Asia and Greater China.

Prior to joining the CGF, he was a senior partner at various consulting firms including McKinsey & Company and OC&C Strategy Consultants, where he served clients primarily in the grocery, health and beauty sectors on a broad range of strategic, operational and organisational issues. Wai-Chan also served as the North Asia Regional Director for retailer Dairy Farm where he ran the Wellcome, 7-Eleven and Mannings banners. He has also served as a non-executive director, most recently on the board of Bellamy’s Organic, a leading infant nutrition supplier based in Australia.

Wai-Chan holds a PhD in Materials Science from the University of Cambridge, an MBA from the Harvard Graduate School of Business Administration where he was a Fulbright Scholar and a British American Chamber of Commerce Scholar, and a BSc (Hons) from Imperial College.


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