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CEOs say transparency with customers, other stakeholders key to hitting net-zero carbon goals

November 3, 2022, 3:39 PM UTC
AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris, Dow CEO Jim Fitterling, and Marriott International president Stephanie Linnartz speak with Fortune executive editor Matt Heimer at the Fortune CEO Initiative conference in Palm Beach, on Nov. 3, 2022.
Rebecca Greenfield for Fortune

As large companies take on the thorny issue of doing their part to hit zero-carbon emissions goals by 2050, they need to make clear to suppliers they have a role to play, too, and also need to accurately convey to consumers the extent of their carbon footprint so that everyone is on board, business leaders said at a Fortune conference on Thursday.

Stephanie Linnartz, president of Marriott International, the hotel chain with 8,100 properties worldwide, said during a panel at Fortune’s CEO Initiative summit in Palm Beach that 60% of customers were willing to pay more for a vacation at a Marriott property if it was sustainable.

“We’re saying this loud and clear: Consumers really care about this,” Linnartz noted. A few years ago, she added, Marriott began figuring out how to measure the carbon and water footprint of a hotel and to publish it on the website.

At the same time, hitting goals means more collaboration with other entities. For Marriott, that means incorporating its franchise hotels into its calculations against 28 specific goals. For chemicals giant Dow, it means incorporating more suppliers. Dow CEO Jim Fitterling told the conference that 350 of its suppliers are incorporated in its carbon emissions calculations, on the way to 500 next year. It helps that 92% of Dow suppliers already have metrics, and 80% of them have emissions goals for both 2030 and 2050—two calendar years with specific milestone targets.

In addition to improving data quality, that information is helping Dow optimize its operations. “We can look at our supply-chain team, look at our customers that are buying, say, less than truckload orders from us and how to combine them and how to give them a route that has the lowest carbon footprint for their deliveries,” Fitterling said.

And the reliability and availability of data is coming along, he added. “We’re moving down the right path, but anytime you’re going into new space, it gets a little bit chaotic.”

For beer maker AB InBev, which makes brands like Corona, hitting goals means working with farmers to make its production more sustainable. AB InBev CEO Michel Doukeris said it’s even about ensuring the company’s long-term viability. “If there is no water, if there is no barley, or if there are [climate-related] problems with the harvest of barley, then we don’t have beer,” Doukeris said. He added: “We work with nature and not against nature.”

Marriott’s Linnartz concurred, saying hitting net-zero goals was an existential matter for many companies. “Without water and barley, there’s no beer. Without beaches and mountains, there are no hotels and travel and tourism, and we all have our businesses inextricably linked to this,” she said.

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