Start integrating Sustainability into your routine
Here is an approach that may feel a little messy. Yet, it may be more adapted to mature companies. The spirit is to let sustainability flow in your company, like water.
First, you may realize that everyone in the organization can start to integrate sustainability into their daily activities. What typically undermines such shift is that people either (1) do not realize the power they have to make things evolve, or (2) may feel that they do not have the necessary support from the top.
People. Figure out who your sustainability intrapreneurs are. Intrapreneurs are trailblazers. These people realize that they can change things, even if their action may seem like a drop in the ocean, and even if they know that it will cost time, effort and perseverance. If you have intrapreneurs in your teams interested in sustainability, they will kick-start sustainability-related projects naturally, they will build the business case to defend their project and find the support to create sustainability bubbles in your activities. The game is to figure out who are the natural allies in this quest. Maybe you can see their action as your sandbox for testing potentially disruptive ideas that you can rely on going forward to spread the sustainability movement in the company. All you need to do is to publicly voice your support, make your support tangible by approving projects, giving resources and nudge other people to support them too.
Routine Activities — Just a few ideas of things that could change.
- Marketing. Maybe your new sustainability focus can attract new customers and create new streams of revenues over time or simply protect your brand. If you see such opportunities, collaboration with the product development teams could be fruitful.
- Product Development. You can start designing your products to enhance their durability, their potential for reuse, their recyclability.
- Resource Management & Supply Chain & Manufacturing & Logistic & Waste Management. You may wish to evaluate the impact of the raw materials you use, you may curb your water usage, you may rethink your purchase strategies, you may rethink how to interact with your supply chain stakeholder, or even how you reorganize your supply chain to make it more sustainable-friendly. You may decide to source your products more locally, or to use Electric Vehicles in your fleet. You may have to create a logistic process to collect your products and recycle them, instead of letting it go to wastelands.
- Stakeholder Engagement. You may create shared value initiatives to ensure local stakeholders are engaged with your brand and business, and support your activities. This could make a big difference when seeking licensing or governmental authorizations.
- Data Collection. You may develop a lean data approach to collect, monitor and visualize high quality data that will help you assess the impact that your company has towards its net zero carbon goals, its GHG goals, its social equity goals, its environmental goals, and so on.
Gain Support. Start building the case for sustainability. Let’s be clear. Even nowadays, it’s hard to convince people to change their practice for the good of the planet or for saving humanity. When a company’s success is gauged exclusively on maximizing shareholder value, the only avenue to defend sustainability is to (1) uncover the monetary value of the hidden costs of unsustainable practice and the benefits of sustainable practice and (2) show the impact on shareholder value over time. Alternatively, look at the goals and KPIs in your company, and translate the impact of sustainability initiatives on those metrics. Look at it with different time horizon (short-term/medium-term/long-term). You can start one product at a time, or one activity at a time. Even if you do not have formal authority, do not underestimate the power of putting light on alternatives that integrate sustainable solutions. Over time, it can make a difference.
Eventually, mindsets and decision-making criteria may evolve when other reporting practices promoting stakeholder value will emerge or when all the hidden costs of unsustainable practices will be appropriately reflected in future accounting standards. This messy organic approach may not be the most elegant one, but, I like to believe that it’s better to start instead of doing nothing. Eventually, the end game would be that these individual initiatives would eventually converge into a full blown coordinated program to revamp the whole company’s culture and strategy. But if you cannot integrate sustainability into your core strategy from the get-go, this may be a way to get there.
And you, were would you start?