Highlights from Day 2 of The Consumer Goods Forum Global Summit 2023
KYOTO, 8 June 2023 — The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF’s) 2023 Global Summit drew to a close today after a two-day programme centred on the Pursuit of Harmony in Turmoil: Working Together to Make a Difference. Over 1,000 CEOs and C-level executives from the world’s leading retailers, manufacturers and service providers attended the CGF’s flagship event, now in its 64th edition. These influential delegates are returning to their workplaces with the concrete solutions necessary to adapt to a world in flux.
A Spotlight on Sustainability
The Kyoto International Conference Centre may be best known as the site where the Kyoto Protocol was signed in 1997, codifying the world’s commitment to addressing climate change. It served as a fitting backdrop to today’s conversations, many of which hinged upon the industry’s responsibility to achieve net-zero carbon emissions and adapt to climate shocks.
The importance of decarbonisation threaded through much of the programme, especially the plenary “Accelerating the Race to Zero,” which opened with a video missive from Razan Al Mubarak, the Climate Change High-Level Champion of the UAE for COP28. Al Mubarak congratulated the CGF for its efforts as an official accelerator of the UN’s Race to Zero campaign and encouraged businesses to sign onto the pledge. “The global leaders here can spearhead systemic change,” she said. Following the presentation, the CGF launched a new tool, the CGF Climate x Nature x Ag Ecosystem Map. The Map gives consumer industry companies an easier, more efficient way to get started or accelerate progress on regenerative agriculture.
As a Race to Zero Accelerator, decarbonisation is key to the CGF and the activities of its Coalitions of Action, including those within the Collaboration for Healthier Lives. Leaders steering this Coalition hosted a plenary to share insights from their field, which connects human health with the health of the planet. Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer of Unilever, closed on a resolute call to action: “Make sure that health is integrated into a sustainability plan.”
Many of the most exciting disruptors in the food technology space intertwine health and sustainability from their foundations. Leaders from two food tech venture capital funds, Bits x Bites from China and ZINTINUS from Germany, highlighted some of these innovators in the plenary “Science & Nature in Harmony.” These included an Israel-based startup ramping up cultured meat production and a Singapore-based producer of a meatless chicken substitute so good, it made Bits x Bites Founder Matilda Ho cry.
A concurrent block of Special Sessions presented additional opportunities to move forward on the sustainability agenda. The expert speakers discussed plastic regulations and the circular economy; ways to close the gap between what consumers say and do; AEON’s digital approach to enhancing sustainability; and ways to unlock data insights with AI.
Revolutions in Retail
While yesterday’s Store Tours demonstrated the razor-sharp cutting edge of Japan’s retail sector, today’s speakers revealed that other regions deserve equal attention. India, for example, is rapidly digitising and rife with opportunities, said Damodar Mall, Grocery CEO of Reliance Retail — the country’s largest retailer. “Everyone’s winning. There are no losers in this market,” he said. “Those who bet on insights win big in India.”
An afternoon plenary block focused on technological developments that are revolutionising both brick-and-mortar and online retail, including SMART packaging, retail media networks, and the influencer economy. “If you were drawing the blueprint of the future, you have the ability to create a fully automated, almost touchless end-to-end value chain all the way down to delivery to the consumer’s home,” enthused John S. Phillips, Senior Vice President of Customer Supply Chain & Global Go-To-Market at PepsiCo.
The I-Talks in the Presentation Theatre offered an additional platform to showcase developments in retail and other sectors in the consumer goods industry. Topics in these rapid-fire, 15-minute presentations included retail media, sustainability strategy integration, virtual twinning, AI, and risk management.
The Japan Factor
The theme of this year’s Summit pays homage to the Japanese philosophy of wa, which emphasises harmony, unity, and peace through group-wide consensus and collaboration. Several of today’s speakers approached their topics through this framework, including Dr. Yoshiki Ishikawa, Founder of the Well-Being for Planet Earth Foundation. In his opening presentation, Ishikawa shared initiatives that aim for planet-wide health and sustainable living, noting that national and local governments in Japan have already begun to invest in this approach.
Kyoto, this year’s host city for the Summit, is considered a spiritual centre of wa and continues to stand apart in its dedication to harmony and well-being. Following Ishikawa’s presentation, delegates from the ancient capital — its vice-governor, a Zen Buddhist priest, the president of Kyoto University, and the heiress to a centuries-old sweets shop — discussed this model and the city’s unique balance between tradition and innovation.
Japan returned to the forefront in the final plenary block, beginning with a panel on Japanese companies’ responses to changing demands among Gen Z employees and consumers. Two young innovators in this space shared the stage with Sadanobu Takemasu, President and CEO of convenience giant Lawson, Inc.
The youngest member of the panel was 16-year-old Midori Watanabe, a Chief Future Officer with the alga-based biotechnology company Euglena Co. Appointing herself a “Gen Z representative,” Watanabe said that her generation values both mental and physical health and looks forward to an inclusive workplace that values them as individuals. “If we can create a workplace that has that kind of acceptance and mutual respect between people, then I feel that will be a place where well-being for mental health and physical health will be ensured,” she said.
The programme closed with a keynote speech by superstar actor Ken Watanabe, who has appeared in Hollywood blockbusters such as “The Last Samurai,” “Memoirs of a Geisha” and “Inception,” as well as many Japanese films. In an interview with CGF Managing Director Wai-Chan Chan — a longtime fan of the actor — Watanabe urged the delegates to leverage their positions as global influencers. “Business leaders like you are making a lot of effort to come together as a globe, I understand,” he said in Japanese. “But you need to go beyond being a business person or a politician or whatever in order to deal with a global crisis.”
Save the Date
The final moments of the summit, Wai-Chan remarked on the success of the event and invited delegates to next year’s Global Summit in Chicago on 11-13th June 2024. “As Buzz Lightyear said, to infinity and beyond. We need to keep pushing and pushing ahead,” he said. “I hope more and more of you join us on the big, long journey that we have ahead of us.”
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About the CGF
The Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) is the only CEO-led organisation that represents both manufacturers and retailers globally. It brings together senior leaders from more than 400 retailers, manufacturers and other stakeholders across 70 countries.
CGF accelerates change through eight Coalitions of Action: forests, human rights, plastics, healthier lives, food waste, food safety, supply chains and product data. Its member companies have combined sales of EUR 4.6 trillion and directly employ nearly 10 million people, with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which comprises more than 55 manufacturer and retailer CEOs.
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