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Why Is Sustainability Important? Second, it can cross functions and departments but represent a small isolated component of employee daily routines. future success of their business and 80 percent saying that in 15 years a majority of companies globally will have incorporated sustainability [iii]. SEKEM’s own ‘mother farm’ was so advanced in its agricultural practices environmentally and socially that the Egyptian government established regulatory policies in the agriculture sector based partly on what SEKEM proved was possible. The term sustainability or corporate social responsibility has grown increasingly prevalent in corporate boardrooms and on executive agendas. For example, companies that take business sustainability or CSR seriously would be figuring out how to be profitable while preserving biodiversity or, more impressively, contributing to the integrity of existing ecosystems. Get to know and engage with your stakeholders The first step is to get to know every person, group and company that your business impacts (both positively and negatively). Owing to globalization, nature of business operations has undergone a huge change. Growing pressure to respond to issues of climate change, the financial crisis, environmental degradation, and increasing social inequality have precipitated the diffusion of sustainability in internal business text, company websites, CEO speeches, and company reporting[ii].Some have argued that CEO action on sustainability issues has shifted from being a discretionary choice to a corporate priority with 93 percent of executives claiming that sustainability issues will be critical to the. We can see similar types of initiatives in the social realm as well. These steps are only the beginning of a process that can eventually transform a company’s entire business strategy into a sustainable business strategy. That is, consumers are loyal to the company because they can count on the fact that all products and services, and the operations used to support the design, manufacturing, and distribution of those products and services, reflect sustainability principles. The results in Table 7 indicate that all business sustainability strategies have a significant positive effect on competitive advantage. The overarching objective here is to continue with business as usual but with some minor adjustments to respond to upcoming regulation or consumer pressure. In a study of 766 CEOs worldwide, KPMG concluded “that sustainability is truly top-of-mind for CEOs around the world”, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/16/bp-dropped-green-energy-projects-worth-billions-to-focus-on-fossil-fuels. SEKEM is an organic conglomerate located just outside Cairo, Egypt that specializes in agricultural commodities for a wide range of industries. Firms are playing a dominant role in society today. A more accurate term to define what is needed for strategy 5 is a meta-organization. First, positioning goes beyond marketing and represents a unique value proposition to consumers that distinguishes the firm from its competition. Corporate sustainability strategies. When you employ sustainability practices in your own region, likely no one will notice unless you openly share your vision or values. This helps them defend their operations because they can lay claim to the fact that they are at least redistributing some of the profit associated with these operations to various causes that work to stem their effects. A 2010 report from the Deloitte professional services, reported that while most companies saw an alignment between their overall business strategy and sustainability, many companies had a pronounced gap between their leaders’ aspirations for sustainability and the way that sustainability is realized within their organizations. Today, more than 90 percent of CEOs state that sustainability is important to their company’s success, and companies develop sustainability strategies, market sustainable products and services, create positions such as chief sustainability officer, and publish sustainability reports for consumers, investors, activists, and the public at large. The value these businesses create for consumers above and beyond the alternative include health and safety, poverty reduction, the responsibility that comes with environmental conservation and, perhaps less intuitively, a desire to be associated with a company or brand that aligns with their values. Be Intentional About Sustainability. Patagonia’s business model is predicated on the notion that it is meant to share any of the new innovations they encounter in the development of more environmentally sustainable apparel. Wal-Mart, McDonald’s, Starbucks, and Google, no matter how genuine they might be or how embedded sustainability might be internally, can only push the envelope on sustainability if they facilitate change among multiple, highly interconnected actors in their supply chain and industry. In a study of 766 CEOs worldwide, KPMG concluded “that sustainability is truly top-of-mind for CEOs around the world” [i]. Wal-Mart’s low prices). Many academic scholars and practitioners alike have come to the realization that no organization can single-handedly make substantive strides to sustainable practices. But a key difference from the fourth strategy is that their focus wasn’t just on embedding sustainability, it was about rewriting the regulations associated with the carpet industry by demonstrating that more sustainable modes of manufacturing carpet were possible. As with any other business initiative, you need to make a plan of action and assign accountability. Culturally, employees are likely unaware of any positioning around sustainability and more directly associate any improvements to representing an important and natural part of business improvement. Although growing more rare, companies may actually promote this positioning as did low end burger chains like Harvey’s or A&W that went with a positioning that countered any need for healthy food by allowing consumers to indulge to avoid any compromise on taste. One of the ways to do this is to consider the relevance of these responses to the core strategy and operations of the firm. Why? From an internal competence perspective, what distinguishes the firm from its competitors has virtually nothing to do with sustainability. negative externalities) or finding ways to reinvigorate and improve these systems. The global population is expected to reach 8.1 billion by 2025. This is an important paradigm shift from strategies 1, 2, and 3 because employees of the company struggle to understand how the business could exist without sustainability filtered through their daily activities just like employees of strategies 1, 2, and 3 struggle to understand how sustainability could at all be relevant to their daily operations. The isolated strategy questions the fundamental design of the product/service or the process of interest, thereby sidestepping the ceiling. The Fair Labour Association, The Kimberly Process and Wal-Mart Labs are examples here. The era of stand-alone sustainability strategies, with subsequent integration of sustainability into company strategy, needs to end; the creation of resilient business strategies that take sustainability as their foundation needs to begin. Mining companies, for instance, have begun to tout “green mining” to represent incremental improvements in power and fuel use along with reductions in toxicity, emissions, and water use. Chapter 4:Ways to Conserve Resources & Reduce Pollution. In the second strategy, companies have moved beyond denial of responsibility and have begun to admit that they are partly responsible for the erosion of certain social, economic, and ecological systems. But at least two leading CEOs have instructed governments in the jurisdiction that they were considering entering that any charging infrastructure must be universal and therefore usable by competing electric car companies. One has to have a sense of humour to not balk at the company’s initiative to raise money for child food education by selling sugar-laden cookies through their Smile Cookie Program. Meta-organizations typically possess lead organizations that use their prominence or power to take on a leadership role in pulling together the dispersed resources and capabilities of potential meta-organization participants. Third, sustainability might be isolated to a particular set of product lines where it represents a relatively small percentage of revenue. Other companies may develop expertise associated with resource efficiency that competitors have been unable to replicate. When Toyota came out with the Prius as the first hybrid vehicle, they demonstrated a highly lucrative core competency that competitors could not duplicate for quite some time. In fact, their source of distinction represents a key erosion of social, ecological, and economic systems. That is, their unique products and services might be difficult for competitors to replicate or the processes behind the creation and delivery of these products and services might be inimitable. Imagine that, organic farming in the middle of the desert. The earth, on the other hand, is not expected to gain any more acreage at a whopping 197 million square miles — 71% of covered by water, and the remaining 29% by land. Start a conversation with a specialist today to learn more. There are three major changes that need to … Dr. Tima Bansal is a Professor of Strategy at the Ivey Business School. First, it can represent an explicit function or department in the organization like a marketing, human resources, or operations department. The 8.1-billion-dollar question is: how do we as consumers, as businesses, and as communities make the most of what the world has to offer without creating unsustainable living environments? Food manufacturers have either developed their own highly sustainable products or they might purchase healthy brands such as PepsiCo’s purchase of Naked Juice. The rise of industrialization was a game-changing catalyst for technology, for trade, and eventually, for convenience. The process behind the development of this technology was highly valuable for the firm. Sustainability needs to be incorporated into corporate strategies and reflected in organizational business goals. Unlike companies adopting the third strategy where sustainability related capabilities are confined to one department or small group of employees, capabilities are often at the firm level, crossing functional areas as employees, in their daily behaviour, interact in ways that create innovative forms of value for consumers and other stakeholders. The identity associated with businesses adopting this strategy tends to revolve around a sustainability leader, consciously distinct from companies that do not take sustainability seriously. Each of these items can lead to a strategy type that a company will use to improve business operations for the long term. At Next Now Strategies, we help organizations and leaders drive growth, profitability and trust through value-led strategies that keep our planet and society in balance. Oftentimes companies, in the absence of core competencies in the area of sustainability, will acquire firms that have these competencies with the alleged intent to slowly integrate this way of thinking into its mainstream product lines (more often than not, this doesn’t actually happen). Ally holds a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Arlington. Other examples include Interface Carpets, and Level Ground Trading. Beyond helping curb those global challenges, sustainability can drive business success. Common across the acquisition versus greenfield approach to sustainability is that there is potential, however remote,  for these initiatives to gain greater traction in the organization. In response, CEOs regularly tout their efforts to “embed” or “weave” sustainability into their operations and culture as the ultimate commitment[v] while scholars and practitioners have offered a number of prescriptions to achieve this objective[vi]. I would love to say, “It’s simple, really!” but alas, if mastering global sustainability was simple – well, then, there would be no need for writing this article at all. Leading electric car companies could have put forth separate and technologically-specific charging facilities in the hope of being the VHS or Blu-Ray winner. That is, 20-30% of an employee’s daily routine might be associated with activities related to sustainability. cit. Sustainability is built on the assumption that developing such strategies foster company longevity. The innovativeness of meta-organizations as alternative forms of organization to traditional hierarchical organizations bestows on them an advantage in coping with the complexity of sustainability. Thinking beyond just the ecological dimension, an investment bank might indicate that they have reduced their portfolio of subprime loans from 60% to 40% or a fast-food chain might announce that they are reducing sugar and salt content of existing products by 15% over the next several years. In the end, corporate sustainability needs to adapt to the maturity of the business and the company’s willingness to treat sustainability as a strategic opportunity. Oftentimes, companies that embed sustainability have a very strong culture where employees, feeling that they are part of something that aligns closely with their values, are more productive and committed to their work. This sounds counter-intuitive because competitors are supposed to ‘compete’. Business sustainability or corporate social responsibility can then be defined as the achievement of economic viability (i.e. By adopting sustainable practices, companies can gain a competitive edge, increase their market share, and boost shareholder value. The growing demand for "green" and "sustainable" products has created major new markets in which sharp-eyed entrepreneurs are reaping rewards. Internally then, firms adopting strategy 3 demonstrate isolated yet highly lucrative competencies that are more typically found in pockets of the firm. What sort of sustainability strategies for business can we put in place while maintaining the integrity of our bottom line? If the company is going to effectively revolutionize practices in its supply chain, its industry, or even great society, it is going to require a very strong trusting relationship with key players that want to take the leap to more sustainable practices. [iv] Bonini, S. “The business of sustainability”, McKinsey and Company (2011), [v] For example, Coca-Cola states, “Our next step is to embed sustainability into our strategic planning process”, Nestle explains, “All business units are now encouraged to embed Creating Shared Value and sustainability into their business strategy and consumer communication”; Wal-Mart held a conference on “How to embed sustainability into your organization”; Royal Dutch Shell chairman said, “Under the recognition of Shell that began when I became CEO in July 2009, we embedded sustainable development firmly into our business”; British American Tobacco stated that they are “Working to embed sustainability in the business” while Philips Corporate Communications says “You have to embed sustainability in your organization”, [vi] Examples include I. Andersson, S. Shivarajan and G. Blau, “Enacting ecological sustainability, in the MNC: A test of an adapted value-belief-norm framework,” Journal of Business Ethics, 59/3 (2005): 295-305;  W. Blackburn, The sustainability handbook: The complete management guide to achieving social, economic and environmental responsibility (Washington, DC: Environmental Law Institute, 2007); K. Buysse and A. Verbeke, “Proactive environmental strategies: A stakeholder management perspective”, Strategic Management Journal, 24/5 (2003), 453-470; B. Doppelt,  Leading change toward sustainability. It’s the job of the analyst to put these initiatives together to pull out a overarching strategy that defines their positioning, core competencies, and internal culture and identity. The results of this study may contribute to positive social change by providing information to entrepreneurs about successful strategies for small business sustainability, which can lead to business owners, employees, and communities living and working in a human-oriented, prosperous, and This has further led to increase in usage of resources and thereby increase in environmental impact. Economic systems would encompass the global financial system, income equality, the free flow of goods and services while social systems might include things like the proper functioning of civil society, low poverty rates, the education or health systems, social justice, or the food system. Culturally, employees see virtually no relevance of sustainability to their daily operations and at most consider the company’s identity to revolve around some philanthropic endeavors. Business sustainability strategies run the gamut, but the ones that do produce results are both reasonable in scope and able to be measured, providing demonstrable proof of their environmental impact. cit. Second, strategy is very much about what the company does really well that is valuable and unique (its core competencies) that competitors find very difficult to imitate or find substitutes for. The business case therefore evident in the need for a company to meet the needs of a growing niche market that wants consistency in their offering. Inside companies, after years of saying, “Oh, the sustainability guys are taking care of that,” CFOs and financial execs in particular are at the table for real. This typically involves an entire department or product line being positioned according to sustainability usually because it makes business sense to do so. In a study of 766 CEOs worldwide, KPMG concluded “that sustainability is truly top-of-mind for CEOs around the world”[i]. This means making this a priority in every aspect of organizational operations. Big banks, at least in Canada, have avoided this low end market because, although legal, they do not want to position themselves in such a way that leads to outcomes that can be perceived by many as exploitative. If genuine, managers may position the firm as a leader in sustainability innovation but the innovation, while noteworthy if not groundbreaking, represents a small part of the firm rather than, as will be described in Strategy 4, a key part of the firm’s DNA. Finally, external positioning and internal competencies must be supported by an organization’s culture and identity that transcends the worldviews of employees to the point where they see the relevance of the firm’s strategy to their daily activities, making it feel like employees live this strategy on a daily basis. That is, in the context of sustainability, managers that think of the company as a distinct organization is unhelpful. That said, those consumers who are supportive of these businesses, however niche in nature, are more willing to pay premium prices that support the extra costs that often come with these practices. Open source innovation is a relatively new practice where multiple competitors join forces to innovate in ways that no individual company could possibly innovate. Patagonia, for instance, is a good example of a company that has clearly differentiated itself from competitors like North Face or Timberwolf. Internal processes, reward systems, performance evaluation and employee skill and training have virtually nothing to do with sustainability. © 2020 Alterity, Inc. All rights reserved. If sustainability exists in an isolated department, employees not in this department often consider sustainability to be irrelevant to their daily operations. Unlike strategies 1and 2 then, the identity of employees and image to outside actors are aligned. Did you know that by 2025, 1.8 billion more citizens of Earth will join the global consumer class? Or they might introduce a technology that dramatically reduces the use of water    An oil and gas company might have a full-fledged renewable energy program, staffed within a legitimate department such as BP that is distinct from its core operations of oil and gas exploration and production that can still result in catastrophic environmental damage. The transformative strategy then can only be transformative if networks of actors are created. Established in the late 1970s, the company was so transformative in its business model that it single-handedly convinced over 800 Egyptian farmers to transition their practices to organic cultivation in exchange for guaranteed access to the European market. One common source of competitive advantage for companies adopting strategy 4 is its culture. Another interesting dynamic associated with competitive positioning for this strategy is that the rivalry among competitors that typically exists in strategies 1-4 is much lower. is a registered trademark of Alterity, Inc., registered in the U.S. Privacy & Disclaimers, Learn more about Acctivate Inventory Management Software by giving us a call at. As a result, companies adopting this strategy will not necessarily lay claim that their positioning embodies sustainability but they will tout their efforts to make this a core part of their strategy by reflecting on the resources allocated to efforts to challenge certain sections of their products/services and operations. ["Sunday","Monday","Tuesday","Wednesday","Thursday","Friday","Saturday"]. Rivalry is lower because for any transformation to take place in an industry, it is easier to have competitors on board for the change. In other words, companies are starting to lose the argument that they are not responsible for system degradation and so want to show that they are responding to pressures of stakeholders, especially consumers. For instance, the evolution of credit unions has isolated the original purpose of addressing gaps in finance in local communities yet represents only a small percentage of their core business operations that resemble the typical financial institution. In fact, companies adopting this approach are heavily reliant for their success on practices that are particularly corrosive to social, ecological, and economic systems. These strategies include corporate governance, employee development, innovation, and systematic improvements. That’s right — 1.8 billion more customers — extremely exciting for your future ROIs. Payday loan retailers can be classified under this strategy as well because their positioning as a source of capital for those consumers typically unable to get credit naturally positions the firm as an exploiter of vulnerable consumers. In fact, the company itself struggles to figure out how they were able to develop these competencies. The fourth strategy sees sustainability infiltrated throughout the firm where, unlike the previous strategy, sustainability is no longer relegated to a particular department among some isolated die-hard employees or reflected in one or two product lines but is instead present in all aspects of the business across all products and services and among most, if not all, employees. This can go as high up as a Vice-President as in the case of Centerra Gold where there is a VP – Sustainability & Environment. Another example might be a manufacturing firm’s use of a new technology that cuts emissions by 90% such as Vale Inco’s supposed plans to use a carbon sequestration scheme in Sudbury, Ontario that would replace one of Canada’s largest smokestacks. In the past, only a small number of CFOs have gone public with a positive take on sustainability as a driver of business value (Kurt Kuehn, former CFO of UPS, comes to mind). The primary reason for this is because firms adopting a transformational strategy tend to go beyond a niche segment of the market and are trying to tap into the mainstream. In a recent study, McKinsey concluded: “the choice for companies today is not if, but how, they should manage their sustainability activities”[iv] with 96 percent of CEOs believing that sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company. But in most cases, the highest position tends to be at the director role as is the case at Loblaw Companies. [iii] P. Lacy, T. Cooper, R. Haywood, and L. Neuberger (2010) op. Facebook has denied responsibility for the proliferation of fake news although they’ve more recently shifted to acknowledging their role and thus have moved up this strategy continuum. Even more lucrative is when government, always uneasy about setting harsh social and environmental regulation that might stifle growth and job creation, establishes regulation that is based on what the company has in fact proven to be possible, without the economic costs governments want to avoid. Luckily, we’ve managed to make the most of what physical land we have, and who knows, maybe floating houses are the future….and we always have Mars as a back-up plan. Faculty combine interactive lectures, case studies, games, diagnostic exercises, and deep reflective work for a highly engaging experience. The fifth and final strategy is called transformational because companies adopting this strategy make substantial changes to the external environment in which they operate. Sustainable Business Strategies is a consultancy founded in 2005 by Andrew W. Savitz, author of The Triple Bottom Line and formerly a lead partner running PricewaterhouseCoopers’ sustainability consulting practice. On what employees are rewarded, how they are trained, how decisions are made, and company policies and mission statements all support culture. Almost all public companies and most non-public companies lay claim to the notion that they are doing something to preserve these systems either by minimizing harm (i.e. Interface Carpets is a US-based carpet company that has pioneered a number of technologies that have revolutionized the once very toxic carpet industry. The tobacco industry for years denied any responsibility for the link between their products and various forms of cancer in the same way that the food industry today denies responsibility for obesity and other related health issues associated with food. Culture is often defined as a set of values and belief systems that guide individuals in a particular group or organization. Another reason why rivalry must be lower is that companies need to collaborate to avoid the tragedy of the commons. Unlike the previous strategy where companies feel that there is no need to adjust operations, the companies in this strategy work to lower their impact incrementally but avoid any serious reconsideration of their strategy. Performance indicators related to sustainability initiatives specialist at Alterity, Ally is to. Product line being positioned according to important organizational dimensions regulation, natural resources such as a of. 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