There are three stages to implementing sustainability initiatives in an organization, each requiring different organizational capabilities and leadership skills, according to Christoph Lueneburger, who leads the Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder International GmbH, and Daniel Goleman, an author, psychologist and science journalist, in an article written for MIT Sloan Management Review.
Those three stages are:
–Phase 1: Making the case for change
The key challenge here is to make a clear and compelling case for change by collaborating and influencing others to gain buy-in from key stakeholders, they say.
The initial mandate for the sustainability leader may just be expressing the need to act.
–Phase 2: Translating vision into action
During this stage, the task is to translate high-level commitments into a comprehensive change program with clearly defined initiatives and targets, according to the authors. By the end of this phase, the organization will be tracking economic, environmental and social metrics over the business planning cycle.
At this point, the sustainability leader must develop a comprehensive program of targeted initiatives that can be tracked using clear metrics, and must take corrective action when performance falls short of expectations, while prioritizing efforts that generate the most value for the organization over the business planning cycle, they say. Here, commercial results are critical and leaders must understand how to turn sustainability into an advantage in the marketplace.
–Phase 3: Expanding Boundaries
At this stage, the sustainability leader must evaluate long-term sustainability trends, looking for new opportunities and developing strategies to reposition the organization to benefit from them, they say. The goal is to embed sustainability in the organization’s core business strategies like quality or financial control.
Typically, sustainability leaders will need to engage with external stakeholders such as competitors, NGOs and other organizations, and push for new practices that may be different than how the organization has conducted business in the past.