Blogs & Comment

10 Steps to Sustainability

A colleague sent me a remarkable new white paper developed by a global team of six academics and sponsored by BTand Cisco. The paper is called A New Mindset for Corporate Sustainability– you can download the PDF at BTs Bigger Thinkingsite (the web site itself is worth noting as innovative approach to engaging stakeholder). The paper emphasizes innovation as the crucial driver to sustainability and includes many useful real world examples. The whole paper is very worth reading. However, for the time-challenged, I thought it would be helpful to provide the 10 recommended steps to turning your company into a sustainability-driven innovator

1. Make innovating for sustainability a part of your companys vision:Update your companys stated visions, mission and list of values or principles to ensure that sustainability is at the heart, so that your company is publicly identified, both internally and externally, as sustainability-driven.

2. Formulate a strategy with sustainability at its heart:To really be effective, sustainability must be included in a new formulation of your business strategy. Simply bolting it on to an existing strategy is likely to leave it marginalized and insignificant.

3. Embed sustainability in every part of your business:Create an ongoing process for getting each part of the company to recognize and understand its environmental, economic and social impacts, and get each part thinking about how they can use that knowledge to innovate through a systematic and integrated approach.

4. Walk the talk:Top leadership in the business has to believe in it. Staff and other stakeholders need to hear their leaders explain regularly what responsibility and sustainability mean for the business and the innovation possibilities they hold, and see the actual programs implemented.

5. Set up a body with the power to make sustainability matter:Many of the leading sustainability-driven companies have a board committee devoted to the area ensuring that things move ahead. Others have a leading non- executive director in charge, while others still have a mixed committee of executives and non-executives.

6. Set firm rules:Establish a code of conduct on sustainability covering both your employees and other stakeholders in your business, stating clearly that anyone who doesnt adhere to it has no place in your company or connected to your company.

7. Bring your stakeholders on board:Identify all the stakeholders in your business shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers, the communities in which you operate and engage with them on thinking about sustainability. Actively encourage them to participate in your innovation and encourage them to develop sustainable opportunities themselves.

8. Use people power:Ensure that sustainability is a clearly stated value at every stage of your people management process, whether its advertising for staff, hiring, induction, performance appraisal, remuneration or promotion. Create a training organization that includes a strong focus on creativity and innovation based on sustainability.

9. Join the Network:Get involved with groups such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the UN Global Compact, the International Business Leaders Forum and similar local bodies.

10. Think beyond reporting:align all business systems with the companys vision of sustainability: Corporate social responsibility reporting helps focus the business, but it should not be viewed as an end in itself. Sustainability should run through every core system, from talent management to supplier evaluation, customer relationship management (CRM), and, of course, the balanced scorecard.