According to the 2013 recent release of one of the most comprehensive CEO sustainability studies conducted by the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) and Accenture, it seems that many businesses have thrown in the towel and have lost faith in sustainability due to the difficulties faced with such a large task and have returned to the old and all too familiar path of prioritizing short-term profitability first.
While three years ago when this same study was conducted, many corporate leaders were ready to step forward and lead the way in attempting to bring change when it comes to integrating sustainability into their businesses.
However, with that said, the study by the UNGC and Accenture also thankfully shows that there are still a few CEO’s out there willing to courageously move forward in the face of adversity and bring change. In fact, these CEO’s have already constructed plans that may help to provide a better future.
Following this new study, the United Nations Global Compact and Accenture believe that they have found a deeper understanding of the concept of sustainability giving businesses an advantage against their competitors. Instead of the approach to sustainability that reacts to external pressures, companies should try a different approach in seeing sustainability as an opportunity for growth, a competitive advantage and for innovation.
Before you can successfully build a sustainability plan, you and your business must first fully understand the true concept and deeper understanding of sustainability. Sustainability should be applied to the entire planet as a whole, because sustainability affects all — it affects everyone and everything. All data and most studies show that humanity as a whole is not acting sustainably on two of the three pillars of sustainability — environmental sustainability and social sustainability.
Remember, the three pillars of sustainability are social sustainability, environmental sustainability and economic sustainability. And according to the World Commission on Environment and Development, any business with a growing ecological footprint that is committed to increased consumption but does not prioritize social sustainability, they are deemed an unsustainable business.
However, they do not fault the business itself for this practice, because it seems to be the nature of the beast — business as usual. With that said, businesses are at fault if they claim to be fully sustainable on all three pillars, when in fact they are not.
6 Steps to Successful Corporate Sustainability
Step 1: Realistic Risk Assessment – Companies that realistically assess risks and accept responsibility by admitting that their business may not be fully sustainable, are more likely to provide and implement solutions to challenges faced and to also achieve goals set during this first step — the assessment step. Understanding and accepting the challenges faced because of risks, allows for future growth.
Step 2: Set Goals – Separate your company from others and define what sustainability means to you and your company, and then set goals. Determine how your business can protect the environment, create a healthier and more equitable society, and improve economic well-being as well. While setting these goals, take into consideration the opportunity for growth by expanding your company’s products and services into countries and areas of the world that have a need for your those products and services. After setting your goals, you should then set a time frame for profit. Do you want to profit from your sustainability initiatives this year, next year or in five years?
Step 3: Implement these Goals: – Now it’s time to put into practice the goals that your company has set and ensure that the entire organization – from engineers to accountants — is on board with these goals.
Step 4: Consider Technology, Advocacy and Partnerships: – Consider investing in innovative technologies such as renewables and/or partnering with other CEO’s in meeting each of your sustainability issues. Partnerships can cross all sectors of society and include your fellow industry peers, consumers, governments, policymakers and more. Successful business leader advocacy and public commitment will lead the way for other businesses to follow in the delivery and achievement of an entire fully sustainable global economy.
Step 5: Monitor: – Measure and monitor your company’s progress of the goals that you have set.
Step 6: Communication is Key: – As with anything else in life, communication is key to effective sustainability goals. You’ll want to establish and create constructive dialogue with everyone involved with your sustainability plan and goals. This includes all stakeholders, local communities, consumers, investors, policy makers, employees, etc.
Social Responsibility = More Profitability
Being socially responsible within the boundaries of a company’s workforce ability makes the organization more profitable. Each company will have different goals and strategies, but one common denominator remains the same — the company’s ability to pursue more profit, while also making a difference in the world. The most crucial step of all when it comes to achieving full sustainability will be the first step — realistic assessment. And ensuring that the entire organization as a whole fully understands the true meaning of sustainability then setting realistic achievable sustainability goals will flow from there.