Building sustainability

2011

According to a 2010 Accenture survey, nine out of 10 CEO's globally view sustainability as key to their future success. But they worry their company's sustainability culture will wither with their departure – or the departure of a key backer of more sustainable business.

The survey also suggested that CEOs are torn between conventional tactics such as reporting and compliance and innovative approaches that expose new markets and create new products.

So how can executives build a sustainability culture in their organization that doesn't depend on individual champions? The answer comes in "Embedding Sustainability in Organizational Culture", a new report by the Network for Business Sustainability, a Canadian non-profit body.

Written by Dr Stephanie Bertels, an assistant professor at SFU Business, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, the report synthesizes more than 13,000 academic and industry publications into a practical framework for building sustainability into a business.

What Bertels found is that formal tactics like HR policies, pay incentives, and CSR reports enable employees to meet emissions levels or comply with safety standards. But they don't improve business processes or create new products. True innovation requires experimentation:

"Executives should complement traditional tactics with less conventional ones," said Bertels."In addition to, say, creating codes of conduct and offering training programs, consider hosting product development challenges or funding department-specific pilot programs. You may be surprised by the results."

The full 73-page report is available here, with a 20-page Executive How-To Guide also on offer.

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