Breakout Sessions and Workshops

Sessions and workshops are subject to change. Please check back as our program develops this spring and summer.

21st-Century Business Strategy

The world is changing fast, with massive implications for business strategy and governance. Some may say the best response is to continue integrating sustainability into company strategy—but it’s not. It’s time to adopt a completely new way of designing business strategy and creating value with sustainability as a crucial element of its foundation. Creating a truly resilient business strategy means understanding the sustainability issues that have converged with the business agenda, not least questions like climate energy, the future of work, and the ethics of technology. It also means using new tools, notably futures thinking and scenarios. Finally, building successful business strategies today requires the inclusion of people and perspectives traditionally outside the board room: from community leaders to futurists. Join us to explore the building blocks of 21st-century strategy.

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Avoiding Techlash 2.0

The speed with which technology went from “hero to zero” is stunning. Once seen as an energy and climate solution and great connector and defender of human rights, the tech sector is now perceived by many as too big, anti-competitive, and destructive to institutions. Although the issues seem obvious looking back now, what should companies have known and done to avoid the “techlash”? Join us to explore how emerging tech companies and those in other sectors can learn from the swift change in public opinion and glean lessons from this moment to better embed sustainability into new business models.

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Bold Response to the Global Climate Action Summit

This September, the business community will take center stage at the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco. Since the Paris Agreement was adopted, companies have continued to announce ambitious new commitments to reinforce and enhance their contributions to address climate change. Join us for a timely dialogue on how to achieve a just transition to a clean energy economy through science-based targets, resilient supply chains, and inclusive economic growth.

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Climate-Related Financial Disclosures: Understanding the TCFD Recommendations

For many investors, climate change poses significant challenges and opportunities. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD), led by Mike Bloomberg and Mark Carney, has developed voluntary and consistent climate-related financial disclosures useful to investors, lenders, and insurance underwriters for understanding material risks. But how should a company put them into practice? We will cover the essential elements of implementing the TCFD recommendations, from integrating climate change into risk management to developing climate-resilient strategies through scenario analysis.

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Climate’s Impact on Upstream Supply Chains

Senior procurement executives whose upstream supply chains are being impacted by climate change will share their experiences addressing this challenge and their perspectives on how businesses can incorporate climate resilience into their supply chains in the future. The discussion will explore how to engage core business functions on this topic and what can be done to actively address it, both inside a company and through partnership with suppliers and other stakeholders.

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Everyone’s an Activist

Many large companies engage a spectrum of stakeholders on sustainability. However, the stakeholder landscape, like so many aspects of modern business, is being disrupted by social media and technology. The democratization of stakeholder engagement means that a single individual can at times have more influence than a well-coordinated NGO campaign. Using big data tools, we will explore the origins of stakeholder campaigns and identify who has influence and who has expertise. Real-time stakeholder mapping will challenge participants’ expectations of trends and inform an open discussion about how stakeholder engagement models should change.

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How to Become a Change Agent

Sustainability practitioners need to be change managers. Understanding and driving organizational change is the single most important skill set for these teams today, as organizations adapt to a disruptive world where sustainability issues are increasingly core to business decision-making. Learn how sustainability teams can move beyond a “whatever works” mindset and be smart and focused about working with other important functions in the organization—such as legal, human resources, marketing, and government affairs—to pursue transformational change that drives mutual benefit.

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Innovation through Gender-Centered Design Thinking

Embedding gender into business development and product design processes unlocks substantial market opportunities. Specialists will hold a lively conversation to shine the spotlight on why incorporating women’s unique needs, desires, challenges, and constraints in the design of products and services can drive innovation, shift gender stereotypes—both inside companies and in society—and open up new market opportunities. Participate in a live gender-centered design thinking challenge to put your insights to work to overcome a real business or social issue.

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It’s Time to Take a Stand on Social Issues

We are in an era of “CEO activism,” with surveys showing that 64 percent of consumers want CEOs to lead on social change without waiting for governments to impose it, and 84 percent expect them to inform conversations and policy debates. But taking a stand on social and environmental issues can be risky in a divisive political environment and it can leave companies feeling that they have lost control of the narrative and are at the beck and call of activists. Case study perspectives will reveal how companies can develop a coherent, focused approach to issues management that is aligned with company values and messaging.

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Let’s Talk about Blockchain

Blockchain is not just hype—there are some truly inspired applications and use cases out there for this new technology to solve social and environmental challenges in global supply chains. Experts will give an overall explanation of how blockchain technology works and why collaboration is an important aspect of its deployment; they will then dive into case studies of how it is being applied to solve global challenges. Participants will collectively workshop these emerging blockchain applications and develop plans to maximize their scale and impact to improve global supply chains.

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Moving from Responsibility to Strategy

Profound and complex forces are rapidly disrupting the world of business. The convergence of machine learning and ever-proliferating data is enabling powerful new services to be delivered with unprecedented speed and intelligence—but it’s also raising ethical and human rights questions. The transition to a low-carbon economy is becoming a top priority for investors and governments, but how quickly this will happen and what the impact will be on business remain to be seen. Meanwhile, companies are increasingly expected to demonstrate their contribution to a just and equitable society in a world of systemic inequality and encroaching automation. Explore how companies are positioning themselves to succeed in a changing world by using strategic foresight and sustainability to develop new approaches to the ethical deployment of technology, climate resilience, and responsible automation.

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Our Future Leaders: Engaging Millennials and Gen Z

You’ve read the statistics: You know that millennials and Gen Z buy products that align with their values, and they demand jobs with purpose. Are you interested in reaching these rapidly expanding consumer groups with your products? Do you want to engage these growing employee populations in your company’s sustainability efforts, but you’re not sure where to start? Hear from millennial sustainability leaders about what motivates them in their professions and purchasing decisions. They’ll share perspectives on what they see as the future of business and discuss how your company can take an innovative approach to engaging this increasingly influential demographic.

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Power Imbalances: What Have We Learned from #MeToo?

The #MeToo movement has had far-reaching implications for women and workplaces globally. The volume and breadth of incidents raise real questions about our progress toward workplace gender equality. In response, some companies have taken this moment to re-examine their approach to workplace harassment and women’s empowerment, from establishing new policies to engaging employees in difficult conversations. Hear about these solutions and challenges and examine what we have learned from this defining moment, as well as what we still need to address to realize wider-reaching, more systemic changes to workplaces that will help us reach gender equality.

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Remedying Human Rights Abuses

What is a company’s responsibility for providing remedy to victims of sexual harassment from a human rights perspective? Or for addressing the consequences of poor working conditions in its supply chain? Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are required to remedy abuses which they have caused or to which they have contributed; however, developing grievance mechanisms that are robust and capable of providing effective remedy may be difficult, especially in cases where formal judicial mechanisms are corrupt or poorly resourced. Examine the grievance mechanisms developed by companies across sectors and the strengths and weaknesses in their implementation when abuses have been identified.

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Responsible Sourcing for Economic Inclusion

Leading companies are no longer simply using sustainable procurement to mitigate risk: They are using it to maximize opportunities and generate business benefits and lasting social impact. Take a comprehensive look at different procurement practices that seek to create economic inclusion and positive social impacts, including integrating poor and vulnerable populations into the workforce across global supply chains. Participants will learn about forward-looking trends in supplier diversity, impact sourcing, and responsible sourcing.

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Sustainability Reporting: What Your Audience Really Thinks

What do sustainability report users really think about sustainability reporting today? This much-needed conversation will bring together four major users of sustainability disclosures—an investor, a civil society organization, an analyst, and a policy influencer—to share what they find most decision-useful in sustainability reports today and help you design a more effective reporting strategy. They will also answer important questions about what decisions they make after reading reports, which reporting frameworks they find most useful, and where they would like to see the field head in the coming decade.

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Tapping into the Potential of the Longevity Economy

While an aging population presents challenges, such as increased healthcare expenditure and requirements for accessible infrastructure, a cohort of healthier, wealthier, and more active older adults is growing rapidly. As empowered consumers, they offer substantial returns for companies in health, technology, financial services, and other industries. As productive workers, they represent an emerging human capital resource for forward-thinking employers. Peer into the exciting potential of the longevity economy and what it means for the private sector.

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The Future of Retail: What to Expect, How to Prepare

The retail landscape is changing dramatically, affecting product manufacturers and retailers both across the functions of their business and in the wider communities they serve. New technology is remaking the face of retail, and ubiquitous devices and powerful Artificial Intelligence (AI) are enabling hyper-personalized customer-brand interactions. This two-part, hands-on workshop will explore how the retail landscape might evolve in the next decade. Retail and e-commerce leaders will share their perspectives on industry evolutions, and participants will delve into trends such as AI, the shift toward experiences and services, global trade, and geopolitics. Participants will also address the implications of these trends for business and civil society and identify how they can affect corporate and sustainability strategies going forward.

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The Future of Supply Chain Transparency

What does supply chain transparency look like over the next decade? When more than two billion people in the world own a smartphone, information production is increasingly democratized in real time. How should companies think about what information to collect and what to share about their supply chains? Investigate promising developments in accelerating supply chain transparency in ways that are more collaborative, less resource-intensive, and more decision-useful. Hear from funders catalyzing the new supply chain transparency landscape, NGOs partnering to make supply chain information open source, and companies implementing practical and impactful approaches.

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The Human Rights Approach to Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) has the potential to address some of humanity’s most pressing challenges, such as those relating to healthcare, education, transportation, and criminal justice. AI also brings new human rights risks as diverse as non-discrimination, privacy, child rights, security, freedom of expression, and access to public services. The swift development of AI raises many new challenges for human rights, such as how to undertake human rights due diligence for complex technologies and how to address the massive uncertainty in how AI will evolve. Delve into the debate around designing a new generation of human rights due diligence methods that enable the integration of human rights into company decision-making about AI across all industries.

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Upskilling Workers for the Age of Automation

Automation and artificial intelligence are projected to cause wide-scale changes to jobs worldwide; these changes will require new skill sets for the individuals in affected roles beyond those they currently possess. Companies at the forefront of this shift are investing in their workforces and suppliers to prepare for the future of work. Join us for a crucial conversation exploring how to pilot new technologies, select individuals for upskilling and train them, and partner with educational institutions to ensure equal opportunity to develop the job skills of the future.

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Win, Win, Win: The Sustainable Supply Chain Finance Opportunity

There’s a new mechanism in town to drive sustainability in your supply chain: activating ESG supply chain finance programs. We will showcase specific examples of successful programs and the impacts they have achieved in this panel. Find out how these programs work, what the critical success factors are that make them work; and how new technologies, including blockchain, are making these programs easier to implement and more desirable. The session will conclude with an exploration into innovative new opportunities to incentivize suppliers with better financing for sector-wide collaboration.

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Thank You BSR18 Sponsors


Microsoft logo

Carbon Offset

BEF logo


21st Century Fox

Boeing Company



The Walt Disney Company