Nick Martin - Executive Director of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable

Nick Martin - Executive Director of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable

Nick Martin is a senior sustainability consultant at Antea Group and the executive director of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER). Nick is dedicated to supporting clients with assessing, prioritizing and managing sustainability-related business risks and opportunities.

He has extensive experience supporting private and public organizations with translating sustainability aspirations into successful strategies and collaborative approaches. Nick has leveraged this experience to support a wide range of companies with accelerating their sustainability journey and defining practical roadmaps for implementation. 

Much of his strategic support involves researching leading practices in sustainability and Corporate Responsibility (CR) and utilizing this knowledge to assist clients with benchmarking against peers and developing viable and differentiating strategies.  Specific areas of expertise include: global water stewardship, monetization, context-based decision making, collective action, and corporate transparency. He previously worked in the non-profit sector with the Global Environmental & Technology Foundation (GETF) in Washington, DC and was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan. 

Nick Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Achieving precompetitive collaboration to advance sustainability in a competitive industry.

  • TCFD and climate scenario planning.

  • Prioritizing efforts as a sustainability professional.

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders.

Interview Highlights: 

You mentioned climate scenarios, climate disclosure and TCFD reporting. I'd love to get your thoughts on that as BIER has been discussing these topics. If you could tell our listeners, because it's still relatively new thing in the sustainability world, what TCFD, how you're seeing large multinational beverage companies addressing it and the importance of things like TCFD and the emergence of the ESG social investing movement.

That's an evolving topic and it's one we could probably have a devoted podcast to, if not more than one. You know, TCFD is the Task Force for Climate Related Disclosures. It was a group that came together to really help frame some set of core recommendations in terms of what companies really need to think about if they want to embed climate scenario thinking into their strategy, their governance, their metrics etc. They pulled from a number of stakeholders to really consolidate that set of recommendations, where companies can then endorse that concept and endorse the importance of climate scenarios without really committing to a recipe or a particular framework. They've left the door open to have it be really company and/or industry specific. They believe that is really important because every industry has a different operational footprint, a different supply chain, changing markets and consumers etc.

We actually had a representative, a VP with Bloomberg, come in and join our group and really engage our members to talk about what is the latest and greatest science in this space, what have been the leading companies (especially those oil and gas that have been first or early movers on doing climate scenarios) and what does he and TCFD really recommend. You could spend an incredible amount of time looking at scenarios and getting in that whole paralysis by analysis rut if you're not careful. What we wanted to do is step back and say, "How do we bring together our technical knowledge or our business knowledge or policy knowledge and really start to help bring the beverage sector together to organize around a common process, maybe a common set of scenarios?" That'll help everybody better understand the risks and the opportunities. If it is a common language and we're all speaking to stakeholders, to investors and to our own corporate leadership. That can go a long way of moving from analysis into resiliency. That's really what it's all about, how do we become more resilient as a person, a company or a country? So that's kind of where it stands and I definitely hope that it's going to be a core area of BIER but it's going to take up more than BIER. There's a lot of different groups that are working in this space, so we want to try to capture the greatest experience and knowledge and try to make it relevant to the beverage sector, as we do with a lot of our work.

You cover a lot of important issues in the Beverage industry and I'm wondering how you prioritize this work? And maybe you can talk about, in general as a sustainability professional, how should we prioritize what we do and where we focus our efforts?

It's one of those questions that I think is becoming even more relevant in the world we live in, in terms of just the pace of information and technology and this whole concept around radical transparency. The topics of the day can change within a day, a minute, an hour and I think that's even more concerning for a company and for a company's sustainability strategy. A lot of these topics that companies are taking on within their strategies really require a longterm commitment. A company is trying to make really transformative changes, whether it's with how they take their products or services to market, their packaging or their innovation. I think one of the risks is that it's easy to get distracted. It's kind of human nature to get distracted by the shiny object or the latest kind of topic or pressure that is being placed on a company from a stakeholder. It's really more important than ever that companies have to remain agile. They've got to evolve their thinking is as things change, but they really have to figure out how to stay committed to what they know is right for their company. Long story short, I've become a big believer in materiality assessments. You can't have everything be a priority. You can't make everybody happy. As a company, you've got to really check yourself through internal reflection, but also reflection with some key external stakeholders, to determine what is most material, where can we get the most business value and where can we differentiate ourselves within the market, within the eyes of investors and others.

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I give this kind of advice a lot. I've got a lot of colleagues. I get a lot of inquiries externally asking about how do I get into the sustainability field and where to start. The advice I give is find a topic or a short list of topics that you really are passionate about. What you need to do is to get to a point where you're a go-to for that topic. You're one of the first people somebody wants to call or thinks about. That's where you really start to get involved in sustainability and you can use that as a foundation. For me, water was definitely that topic. When a lot of people think about me. They naturally think about water first, which is something that I love and I've just found that it's a topic that fits me well. Whether its materiality, whether it's water, whether it's energy and carbon and climate change, just find those topics that you can really invest in because becoming a jack of all trades and sustainability is almost impossible. It's too dynamic and complex. You really got to try to focus.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I think that it's just becoming more mainstream. Finally. I feel like we've kind of gotten over a bit of a curve where I think there's just a much wider acceptance that it is the right thing to pursue sustainability. We do have needs and it's only going to get worse if we don't really take it on. So, I see it obviously with my kids. I think it's almost inherent with them. They just understand it. It's just the right thing to do. So, I feel like we're kind of at that point, finally. We will see. Things can change.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability professionals read?

The one that sticks in my mind, I've actually got a copy here in my office, is a book called Embedded Sustainability. It was written by Chris Laszlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva. It's a book that stuck in my mind. I can't remember when I first read it. It's a few years old now, but it was one of those first books that I felt like really kind of drove that it's okay for businesses to think about profit when they think about sustainability, as long as they're doing it for a greater reason, a greater purpose ultimately. One of the things I loved about the book is that it had these three connected trends - declining resources, radical transparency and increasing expectations. It was just fascinating because those are kind of the three things that really come down on a company and the three reasons that they should really take sustainability seriously. The combination of those three and it just really resonated with me.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

There's quite a few of these days. I think it really depends on what I'm in need of. There's some really good common platform resources out there like Environmental Leader, GreenBiz and various associations. I like WRI, Ceres and World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Those three I feel like put out some really good meaningful work and analysis. So, I definitely keep an eye on those three. I also just depend upon Linkedin and different networks I'm involved in. You get a lot of really, really timely and relevant information, more so than five or 10 years ago. At times it feels like maybe too much information, but you really get some good tips on emerging topics and on new initiatives pretty quickly these days.

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work that you're leading for the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable?

Well, feel free to call me for one. I'm always willing to have a good discussion. So, we do have a different sister organizations, but I'm part of the US group and you can find a lot about our sustainability practice. I am on Twitter: @anteasustain. I'm not very active on Twitter compared to LinkedIn and some other areas, but I am on there. Then definitely connect with us. Connect with me on LinkedIn either personally or we do have a BIER Linkedin page as well. We'd love to have you connect there and keep up on what we're doing with the beverage industry.