Innovation That Matters

Top 5 takeaways from ChangeNOW 2024

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Springwise CEO James Bidwell shares his key takeaways from this year's ChangeNOW summit

ChangeNOW 2024, the event’s seventh edition, proved to be the biggest summit yet. With over 35,000 participants, including 500 speakers and 1,000 exhibitors, there was no shortage of inspiration to glean. From panels on climate adaptation and sustainable AI to workshops on circularity and even the first European election debate focused on ecological and social transition, the three-day summit gave us a lot of food for thought.

While we were there at the Grand Palais Éphémère, Springwise CEO James Bidwell took some time to reflect on some of the learnings we could bring back from the event. Take a look below for his five key takeaways from this year’s ChangeNOW.

james’ Top 5 takeaways

1. Strong leadership is crucial

“Leadership from the very top remains absolutely critical for moving the transition to a more sustainable world,” James highlights. One example is Sébastien Bazin, the CEO of AccorHotels. In a session on solving water scarcity, Sébastien stressed the importance of water in terms of his own hotel development. For instance, at one development, he refused to build any more swimming pools because of their negative impact on the planet. When leaders at the top understand that preserving the planet is good for business – particularly when you think long term – companies can operate and grow in a far more sustainable way. And this environment-first thinking will then spread down and across the whole organisation.

2. Innovation and innovators catalyse change

Some of the largest companies on the planet had a presence at ChangeNOW, highlighting an increasing realisation from bigger corporates that it is the smaller startups and innovators who have the solutions for tomorrow. It’s then up to the corporates to provide the necessary financing and help these solutions scale. Continuing business as usual, with the same processes and technologies that have been used for years, is incompatible with a greener future. Smaller-scale innovators have the ideas that can really help corporations transform for the better.

3. Investors have their part to play

This year, 1,200 investors attended the ChangeNOW summit, all of whom showed that they were ready and eager to help accelerate the change. During James’s panel, where he chaired a conversation on the importance of traceability and transparency, speaker Nancy Mahon (the Chief Sustainability Officer of Estée Lauder) revealed that she spends a third of her time talking with investors. “So the money men and the money women are now taking this very, very seriously,” James highlights. Increasingly, investors are investigating the climate impact of a business before they make any investment, and if a company is not diligent and ambitious in their environmental reporting and targets, they will lose out.

4. We are still not far enough

Although more companies than ever are setting ambitious ESG targets, one IBM survey estimates that only around 10 per cent have made significant progress towards achieving them, with inadequate data named as the biggest obstacle. Hearing Sandra Uwera Murasa, the Global Chief Executive Officer of Fairtrade International, speak on the transparency panel, it became clear just how much work needs to be done. “Responsible supply chains are in a minority. There are big companies who are still not sourcing responsibly,” James emphasises. “There’s a long way to go.”

5. There is reason to be optimistic

Despite all the work that still needs to be done across every industry to make sustainable change happen, above all, ChangeNOW highlighted that there’s great reason to be optimistic. “This is an incredible group of people who are making change happen. There is a will to act. There is a will to make it happen,” James summarises. The scale of the problem is massive, and it will only grow without a concerted and ambitious effort on all fronts. Fortunately, as was demonstrated by all the impactful speakers who took to the stage and all the innovators who championed their planet-saving solutions in the exhibition area, there are countless changemakers striving to make all of the positive talk and environmental targets a reality.

If you want a deeper dive into ChangeNOW 2024, including learning more about some of the fantastic solutions on display, download our free Innovation for Change report now. Click here.

Words: Matilda Cox