We all need to attract others to us: to work, to live, to support. Organizations are no different, the whole organization being a human collective, with a diverse range of skills and abilities to provide products and services to others. Sustainability and CSR are critical issues for generating market place attraction – they are the game-changer to support differentiation.
Indeed, within organizations it is important to nourish the relationships with customers, co-workers, suppliers, investors and all other stakeholders who may have a vested interest in the organization in one form or another. And, to nourish these relationships and attract new relationships, organizations must therefore not only stand out for quality, value, integrity and ethics in order to be trusted, but they must also communicate their sustainability credentials in a proven, verified and contextual manner. This means they must not just offer cheap throw-away lines, which out of context, and without meaning, anesthetize the market place and engender cynicism. The organization that goes beyond the minimum will attract more.
Yet, so often, the systems and structures put into place within organizations cause conflict, mistrust and resentment, leaving functional heads to orchestrate actions that are right for them, within the financial constraints placed upon them. Hence, mangers tend to build their own agendas, which may not be in-tune with the goals of the organization. Therefore, spectrums of agendas across and within functions conspire to create waste and sub-optimized resource use through, for example, poor communication and lack of understanding of cross-functional impact, which can ultimately lead to lack of process ownership. It is from this lack of ownership, that Tacitus could once have referred to thus: “…credit of success is claimed by all, while a disaster is attributed to one alone.”
To break free of these out-moded business models is to instil a thorough understanding of the circles of sustainability and make them the day-to-day working practices. They will create a harmonization between and within multiple functional units and tune all the internal energy to focus in one direction, that of the organizational goals, to create value as well as imbue the corporate values. And, when galvanized into a sustainability program, everyone works both individually and collectively towards making their organization the best in its field.
Therefore, to understand the circles of sustainability is to understand the organization, its culture, and the impact of processes across boundaries in terms of design, operation, finance, management and delivery. All functions within an organization have interconnected impact, with functional heads understanding what it means to them; sustainability implemented correctly, then, will influence impact in a positive way and guide functional managers to ensure genuine alignment between the needs of the business, and the needs of their function, with solutions being proposed and implemented in context and without conflict. Likewise, by making sustainability personal, to mangers and each member of their teams, there is a platform to transition all actions to be aligned to that of the overall business goals. Hence areas of conflict between functions can be removed, increasing efficiency and productivity, to support the balance sheet, and lower impact and risk on your customer.
Ultimately, it is the reputation of the organization, which surely is its most valuable asset, which will create enduring marketplace attraction. And it is the people of that organization who create the reputation. And sustainability understands each individual is an expert in his or her job, and as humans seek recognition, a greater participatory environment is created. After all, no one really wants to go to work to do a bad job: it is finding ways to do that job better.
Christopher Gleadle is author of Sustainable Growth Through Sustainable Business and founder & CEO of the sustainability performance agency The CMG Consultancy.