How To Build A Great Sustainability Strategy

This article proposes four steps that companies should undertake in order to build a great sustainability strategy.

strategy

Strategy is about decision making for the future. Sustainability is about building a better world. It is unsurprising then, that when these forces are combined, they can become a potent force for change.

However, to really change the world, good sustainability strategies aren’t enough, great sustainability strategies are needed. Strategy is important, because a well thought out strategy makes for effective execution.

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies should:

1.     Find strengths and build on them

2.    Find weaknesses and overcome them

3.    Improve research abilities and processes

4.    Look ahead and reason back

 

1.     Find strengths and build on them

Strategy is fundamentally important to business decisions.

The value of strategy is that it allows businesses to get results that are meaningful and impactful. It therefore makes sense for the first step in this process to be focussed on opportunity maximisation. If a business already has strengths in a particular area, it will be easier to link these strengths to a great sustainability strategy.

Finding strengths and building on them, is the best way for sustainability advocates to get non-sustainability departments engaged and supportive of their activities.

2.   Find weaknesses and overcome them

A sustainability strategy provides opportunities to find weaknesses and overcome them.

Building a great sustainability strategy necessitates that you look at your business differently. It forces you to look at your business as a system.

Perhaps your company has a problem with stakeholder engagement? Sustainability provides opportunities to engage with external stakeholders and to create meaning together.

Perhaps your company has a problem with the way it is perceived. An organisational sustainability strategy provides you with an opportunity to authentically invest in making the world a better place. This can dramatically enhance the way your company is perceived by external audiences.

3.   Improve research abilities and processes

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies need to improve their research abilities and processes.

The father of advertising David Ogilvy once remarked:

Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.

I think we can borrow some of David’s wisdom and link it to the sustainability challenge. You could say:

Never stop testing, and your sustainability will never stop improving. 

In order to be a recognised leader in sustainability, companies must allocate resources towards research in this field. This has to be an ongoing process, which is constantly monitored, updated and fed into the sustainability strategy.

To create an authentic and impactful sustainability strategy, it has to be grounded in science. The research and processes should be based on Life Cycle Analysis and Multi Criteria Analysis of the various options under surveillance.

These processes once acted upon are rewarding and are integral to creating a great sustainability strategy.

4.   Look ahead and reason back

To build a great sustainability strategy, companies need to look ahead and reason back.

Sustainability is about decision making for the future. Companies need to think about their environmental and social impacts, and tie that in to a strategy that helps them be profitable in the long run.

Sustainability is the most important conversation happening in business right now. It is a huge challenge that will stay with business for most of this century. It therefore makes sense to tie sustainability in to a company’s dominant strategy. Bolt on sustainability strategies which bear no resemblance to a company’s dominant strategy are inauthentic and run the risk of being derided as greenwash. With the power of the internet, consumers and investors have sufficient information at their disposal to determine the authenticity of a company’s sustainability strategy.

Think big, think bold. Think about various environmental and social trends and reason back to the present day. That is the best way to create a great sustainability strategy. You should certainly be aware of what other companies are doing. But to be truly remarkable, try and think independently about how your company can invest in making the world a better place.

What you need to know

This article explored how to build a great sustainability strategy. To build a great sustainability strategy, companies should:

1.     Find strengths and build on them

2.    Find weaknesses and overcome them

3.    Improve research abilities and processes

4.    Look ahead and reason back

By following these steps and thinking very hard and very systemically about trends and what kind of business they want to be in the future businesses can create a great sustainability strategy.

This is an ongoing process that needs to be monitored and updated. But if it is followed through correctly, it will have a meaningful impact on their business. The value of an effective sustainability strategy is that it communicates to your internal and external stakeholders that you are a responsible business and that you are committed long-term profitability and stewardship.

We will learn more about sustainability in subsequent posts.

Thank you for reading

By Barnaby Nash

Contact Details

Mobile: 07745 904 128

Email: barnaby.nash@gmail.com

Blog: barnabythinks.wordpress.com

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