With the days of greenwashing coming to an end, organisations are forced to show real commitment to sustainability. Here’s how.
It’s no surprise that sustainability has become a critical priority for every organisation, regardless of the industries or sectors in which they operate. In truth, today organisations are forced to truly care about their impact and act on it, due to new and sometimes strict regulations that they must operate under.
Despite looming pressure, it also makes good business sense to actually care about sustainability. For a start, it plays a huge role in attracting and retaining top talent, which is core to any organisation. Externally, a sustainable approach also prepares organisations for any looming crisis, ranging from food and energy shortages to war and other crises. And this is the reality all of us are living in at present.
While it seems like every organisation knows that sustainability can create positive business results and readiness for unpredictable changes, many seem to struggle with identifying where to begin when it comes to implementing a sustainability strategy, especially considering the risks that are often tied to it.
Our approach to sustainability ten years ago is unrecognisable today
Beginning a journey towards becoming more sustainable can seem daunting. When we look at examples of organisations that have tried and failed to implement sustainability practices in the past, it seems as though the possibilities for mistakes, or even simply subpar investments, are endless.
Thankfully, we have the past to learn from. Today we know what works and what doesn’t work based on the past experiences of organisations. We can recognise who was triumphant in their pursuit of sustainability, and which failed practices resulted in negative publicity or lack of tangible impact. We see and understand the impact of greenwashing, and consumers do too. The real risk associated with implementing new practices is greatly mitigated by the knowledge we hold today, which ensures that we don’t make the same mistake twice.
So, how can you actually create a sustainability strategy that works?
When you’re making any business decisions, it’s important to consider your predicted strategic outcomes. This is also true for sustainability. Organisations attempting to create a strategy that actually has a real impact must consider how it aligns with their business goals and values.
Becoming sustainable doesn’t mean making adjustments across all aspects of your business, just the ones that matter. Your sustainability strategy should be unique to your organisation and should be closely tied to activities where sustainability actually fits in. If it fits in within your supply chain, then that’s where you focus. If it’s in operations – then that is your way of implementing sustainability. Pick the most impactful areas and come up with measurable targets that can be tied to specific people (accountability), timeframes and results.
Aligning sustainability with your strategic goals will inevitably benefit all aspects of your business. When it comes to measuring your impact, tying into business goals and targets ensures that measurement is somewhat easier, with business priorities guiding outcomes and individuals set to be accountable for the strategy’s impact.
Getting your team excited about big change
Once your team clearly understands the components of sustainability that you can actively improve on in an efficient and meaningful way, leaders can mobilise their people to make change happen. As well as setting publicly available targets to hold the organisation accountable for its progress, leaders should be the force of change for the organisation. This means leading by example, showcasing stellar sustainability efforts and actively calling out aspects of business that need to be adapted to make real change happen.
From experience, we’ve seen that this approach to implementing sustainability practices often cascades through the organisation, successfully securing buy-in and support from stakeholders. If leaders need additional support to motivate follow-through, there are a few tools that might help.
For some teams, monetary incentives provide sufficient motivation, while others might be more inclined to support efforts where behavioural incentives, such as praise, rewards and reminders, form an important part of the strategy’s implementation.
Are organisations actually starting to care about sustainability?
For the most part, yes. Outside of government regulations and requirements, today sustainability plays an important role in delivering business results that actually matter. These are not limited to financial results, but also enable the attraction of top talent, buy-in from key stakeholders and preparation for whatever the future holds.
As the future of the world continues to grow more and more uncertain, one thing’s for sure. Sustainability is more than a passing trend, and all organisations must hold themselves accountable for acting in more sustainable and ethical ways.