Earth: Our Next Moonshot?

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“Boldness has genius in it.” — attribution, J.W. von Goethe

Fifty years ago, Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon. The flag he planted there has since bleached pure white, yet we still see his triumph in technicolor. The word “moonshot” is just as much a part of our business lingo now as it was in 1969. Why?

It certainly isn’t about dollar return. Per historian Douglas Brinkley in his new book, “American Moonshot: John F. Kennedy and the Great Space Race,” the total cost of putting an American on a hunk of rock in space amounted to $25 billion ($185 billion in today’s dollars).

The real reason we still describe our biggest breakthroughs in lunar terms is that never before or since have we seen such an instantaneous elevation of the human spirit. In his famous 1962 space-race kickoff speech on the Rice University campus, President Kennedy called not for technological revolution, but for the genius of shared commitment: “And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly across the Atlantic? … We choose to go to the moon! We choose these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills.”

Today, we face accelerating climate change (+1.5% by 2030, with 3x that increase at the poles), proliferation of ocean plastics (more plastics than fish by 2050), and depletion of scarce water resources (40% of the world will experience shortage by 2030). We need that collective spark right now. I’m betting we deliver.

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In Paris last week, L’Oreal co-hosted with Gartner a Leaders-in-Action summit on sustainability. L’Oreal shared CEO Jean-Paul Agon’s public commitment to firm 2020 reductions in carbon emissions, water use and deforestation. In January, L’Oreal was recognized once again as a global leader in corporate sustainability by CDP, the world’s leading independent standard bearer for environmental performance. Thanks in large part to fundamental and continuous supply chain reinvention, L’Oreal earned CDP’s AAA award — the first and only company in the world to achieve this distinction three years in a row. Supply chain is at the center.

Supply chain was also at the hub of last week’s Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s Circular Economy 100 (CE100) Acceleration Summit at Nike’s world headquarters in Portland, Oregon. In fall 2018, the CE100 community made its New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, a moonshot-like “race to the top” on plastics circularity, and a specific, numeric target. All consumer packaged goods, retail and packaging producing signatories — 107 in total — have committed to making 100% of their plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Consumer packaged goods and retailers have committed to an average of 25% recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025, roughly tenfold the estimated global average today. Each attendee I met there — designers, developers, scientists, government representatives — made a point to let me know that they count on supply chain leaders to drive this effort. Per my colleague Pam Fitzpatrick, we already are:

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Per JFK himself: “That challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.”

Indeed, it is we who are the architects of our next moonshot.

Destination? Earth.


Steve Hochman

Author Steve Hochman

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