A new mindset for corporate sustainability

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Source: GLOBE Foundation

Organizations that wish to grow profitably in the future must focus their efforts to benefit shareholders, society and the environment simultaneously, according to a paper published by a group of academic experts on corporate responsibility and sustainability.

Concentrating on any one of these areas at the expense of the other two may compromise a business's long-term success. A focus on sustainability provides the best means to implement this triple-pronged strategy, enabling organizations to innovate, to differentiate themselves and to succeed, note the six authors of the paper.

The paper, sponsored by Bigger Thinking and Cisco Systems, presents a vision of corporate sustainability, which places an emphasis on innovation as the means to add value, not just to the bottom line, but to the environment and society at large.

It also builds on the foundations laid by such initiatives as the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Tomorrow's Global Company, SustainAbility and others, all of which have impressed upon the business world the need to look beyond shareholder value, to consider social and environmental impacts, as well.

The authors call their approach: S2AVE (Shareholder and Social Added Value with Environment restoration), to emphasize how organizations can successfully and profitably address all three elements of the 'triple bottom line' simultaneously - becoming increasingly agile and innovative as they do so.

The changes required do not rely on extensive re-engineering of a corporation's structure, but do require conviction and vision notes the paper's authors. These steps can be initiated immediately and indeed, given the speed with which the markets are changing, must be addressed by companies with some urgency. They include:

  1. Make innovating for sustainability a part of your company's vision
  2. Formulate a strategy with sustainability at its heart
  3. Embed sustainability in every part of your business
  4. Walk the talk: emphasize actions, not words
  5. Set up a body at the board level with the power to make sustainability matter
  6. Set firm rules
  7. Bring your stakeholders on board
  8. Use people power
  9. Join the networks
  10. Think beyond reporting: align all business systems with the company's vision of sustainability

In a series of case studies, the authors note how these principles are being put into practice by leading companies around the world.

The Globe 2008 Conference and Trade Fair features a session on succesfully integrating sustainability into business processes. Globe recognizes that each company must manage sustainability differently based on the nature of the business, the issues faced, a range of external and internal drivers, and corporate culture. A panel of senior sustainability practitioners, drawn from a range of business sectors will be attending the session and will present their experience and demonstrate how their companies are making progress in sustainability integration.

The paper's authors include:

Dr Mark Lemon, Centre for Resource Management and Efficiency at Cranfield University, UK

Dr Miguel Ángel Rodríguez, IESE Business School University of Navarra, Spain

Professor David Grayson, Doughty Centre for Corporate Responsibility at Cranfield University, UK

Professor Sarah Slaughter, Sloan Management School Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Professor Simon Tay, Chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs

Professor Zhouying Jin, Beijing Academy of Soft Technology Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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