• Frankfurt, 08 July 2024

VBA Annual Conference 'Sustainable Value Creation of the Future: Business in Transformation' - Highlights and Summary

How can business create sustainable value in times of transformation? And how impact accounting supports companies as building block on their journey?

On July 2nd, 2024, we have held our first VBA conference. We kindly thank our pro-bono partner PwC providing the conference facilities in Frankfurt, Germany. With more than 120 participants, our conference brought together forward-thinking minds to explore how businesses today and in the future can create sustainable value for their investors, society, and nature by balancing economic, environmental, and societal impacts. It was an honour welcoming our member companies, partners, and friends from around the globe to discuss concepts and solutions.

This conference marked the 5th anniversary of the Value Balancing Alliance and – due to the pandemic – the first in-person meeting of the Value Balancing Alliance steering committee. The conference started with a warm welcome speech from our host Rainer Kroker, PwC, and the chairs of our Steering Committee Paul Penepent (Novartis), Dirk Elvermann (BASF), and Dong-Seob Jee (SK Group)​, and our CEO Christian Heller.

Meanwhile, our guests attended two insightful breakout sessions. One on Reporting with Adam Pradela (DHL Group), and Teresa Nielsen (UBS​), moderated by Dennis West (University of Oxford). The session focused on the practicalities of implementing the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) and double materiality assessments (DMA). Both shared their in-depth knowledge how to cope with the requirements of CSRD and ESRS, looking into impact drivers, DMA, and how impact accounting can be utilized to inform the respective processes. The subsequent Q&A delved into challenges related to usability and the decision-usefulness of CSRD, as well as the communication and understanding of materiality assessments. Looking ahead, the conversation highlighted opportunities in the next 12 months for improving the usability, presentation, and relevance of CSRD and impact valuation. The session maintained a dynamic and conversational tone, emphasizing concise, practical examples and encouraging interaction among the panellists and with the audience.

The second break-out session on Data & Asset Management with Dr. Richard Scholz (WifOR Institute)​, and Dr. Andreas Gintschel (Effectual Capital), moderated by Prof. Dr. Bernhard Bartels (University of Applied Science, Mainz) focused on the use of impact accounting in asset management and the related data challenges. Andreas demonstrated the integration of the VBA methodology into Effectual’s asset management strategy, offering a unique investor-focused approach to impact assessment. Richard elaborated on how valuation captures impact, providing a thorough analysis of their journey toward an impact-oriented economy and addressing strategies for handling missing data. Bernhard - assessed the readiness of impact accounting using value factors and highlighted critical aspects of using impact accounting.

The conference continued with a keynote speech on “In the Shadow of Crises - the Global Importance of Biodiversity” by Dr. Christof Schenck, Director of Frankfurt Zoological Society. Christof demonstrated in a very tangible way the current state of our planet. He outlined the interconnectivities and consequences of climate change, biodiversity loss, and the pandemics leading to tremendous costs of our economies and businesses taking our dependencies into account. Christof raised awareness for the urgent need to change our way of living and the unique position and responsibilities for global business to transition our business models.

The first panel discussion, “Business in Transformation” brought together leaders from different industries like Dr. Fahad Al-Sherehy (chemicals), Meike Webler (financial services), Kevan Krysler (data storage), standard setters like Bastian Buck, change agents like Isabelle Grosmaitre, and Dr. Christof Schenck, moderated by our CEO, Christian Heller. Our panellist convened to explore the transformative journey of businesses toward a sustainable value creation in their industries, emphasizing the urgency of adapting to sustainability challenges. Isabelle provided her perspective on how companies are navigating these changes, while Bastian highlighted the crucial role of transparency and standard-setting in driving economic transitions. Christof urged the business community to take responsibility, closing the policy and regulatory gap, driving adequate action to safeguard our planet. The first movers also discussed how data collected through sustainability reporting can be turned to a source to drive value creation using innovative methodologies like IFVI-VBA impact accounting. The session concluded with a robust Q&A, addressing the interplay between regulation, transition plans, and the potential for a global standard in sustainability reporting.

In a fireside chat focused on the practical applications of impact accounting and valuation, our members shared their experiences and insights. Moderated by Michael Schmidt (LAIQON AG), the session included the first movers on Integrated P&L, Holcim, represented by Steven Murphey, from Novartis, Tom Downey, driving the application at product level, Joon-Hwan Oh from SK, sharing insights in the utilization of decision making, Peter Schmidt from Kirchhoff and Klaus Hufschlag from DHL sharing insights how impact valuation informs accounting translating ESG into actionable information, and Noriyuki Mita from Mitsubishi Chemical Group sharing latest insights from policy making in Japan.

One highlight of our Conference was the announcement of our Associate – Aramark, and two new member companies GSK and Caixa Bank with Matthias Bulach sharing his reasoning why joining the VBA.

Our event continued with representatives from our Steering Committee discussing our path forward: “Value Balancing Alliance- What is Next?” They highlighted how VBA's methodologies enhance corporate decision-making by integrating financial, social, and environmental factors into strategic decision making and planning. The conversation emphasized VBA’s role in aligning business practices with emerging sustainability regulations like CSRD and ESRS, presenting a compelling case for companies to join the alliance. Panelists discussed VBA's added value in driving sustainable business practices and its potential to scale and impact more organizations globally. The session concluded a key message by top executives underscoring the transformative benefits of VBA, encouraging businesses to embrace its frameworks for long-term success and compliance.

Anders Indset, our final speaker, closed our first conference with a positive, engaging call for action: "It is on us, as human beings, as business, to change the world. It is on us, it is in our hands, to transform the system, to move from shareholder to stakeholder capitalism. And the VBA has the potential to be the nucleus." 

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all our members, partners, colleagues, and friends who joined us for this successful event. Your participation and contributions enriched our discussions, deepened our insights, and strengthened our collective commitment to advancing resilient business practices and sustainable value creation. Together, we are shaping a future where economic prosperity is harmonized with environmental stewardship and social responsibility. Thank you for being integral to the success and impact of the VBA Annual Conference 2024.

 

Authors:

Christian Heller

CEO, Value Balancing Alliance           

 

Mirjeta Rexhaj

Social Media Manager