Organizations that wish to grow profitably in the future must focus their efforts to benefit shareholders, society and the environment simultaneously, according to a paper published today by a group of academic experts on corporate responsibility and sustainability. Concentrating on any one of these areas at the expense of the other two may compromise a business’s long-term success. A focus on sustainability provides the best means to implement this triple-pronged strategy simultaneously, enabling organizations to innovate, differentiate themselves and succeed.
The paper, A New Mindset for Corporate Sustainability, was sponsored by Cisco and BT.
The paper outlines the 10 steps required for organisations to become sustainability-driven innovators:
1 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.
2 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. Whatever the arrangement, it is essential that the company regularly addresses sustainability at the very highest level of decision-making.
3 Make innovating for sustainability a part of your company’s vision
Update your company’s 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.
4 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 doesn’t adhere to it has no place in your company or connected to your company.
5 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.
6 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 marginalised and insignificant.
7 Embed sustainability in every part of your business
Create an ongoing process for getting each part of the company to recognise and understand its environmental, economic and social impacts, and get each part thinking about how they can use that knowledge to innovate.
8 Use people power
Ensure that sustainability is a clearly stated value at every stage of your people management process, whether it’s advertising for staff, hiring, induction, performance appraisal, remuneration or promotion. Create a training organisation that includes a strong focus on creativity and innovation based on sustainability.
9 Join the movement
A growing number of organisations, networks and other bodies dedicated to encouraging sustainable business are emerging. Get involved with groups such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the UN Global Compact and similar local bodies. Take part in sustainability investment rankings and monitors such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and the Corporate Responsibility Index.
10 Produce real sustainability reporting
Corporate social responsibility reports can sometimes be little more than box-ticking by companies that think everybody should have one. The truly sustainable company instead documents its activities, clearly setting out policies and pointing the way to innovative actions. It should be a dynamic base for progress.