This is a guest post by Jonathan Churchman-Davies, Independent Specialist Adviser for Innovation and Sustainability. He writes about the value of corporate sustainability and what it means for your business.
Some companies are questioning whether corporate sustainability initiatives offer real benefits. Recent economic difficulties mean that, quite rightly, managers are under pressure to scrutinise the returns from any expenditure. Sustainability was originally sold to them as a corporate must have. They initially thought that delivering corporate sustainability would be easy, but many have found that the benefits are more difficult to deliver and quantify than was initially thought. This may have damaged the credibility of sustainability itself, whereas the fault lies more with the approach taken than in its pursuit.
Getting onto the right delivery pathway is not a quick fix, however, and requires real commitment. The good news is that the steps taken can be progressive, so as to avoid overloading the capacity for change.
So how can you tell when your existing programme has problems? A few tell-tale symptoms:
- Ambitious headline targets with ill-defined roadmaps for delivery;
- Performance improvement lagging behind the original plans;
- Sustainability not integrated into business strategy;
- Separate systems for managing environment, business efficiency and stakeholder value;
- Isolated case studies and initiatives rather than persistent and integrated systems change;
- Imprecise or un-integrated measurement of social, environmental and financial values.
In the short term, a rebooted programme must rebuild credibility through a focus on short term delivery. For example, client alignment can be pursued through a staff volunteering and local stakeholder programme that will also underpin contract improvement measures. Cost performance and staff welfare will come from a properly structured travel reduction programme, reducing subsistence, time, stress and travel risk burdens by 20-30%. These two basic initiatives illustrate where sustainability can add tangible value – delivering cashable benefits as well as improved staff welfare and stakeholder engagement.
What are your thoughts on corporate sustainability? Where do you think it has the potential to add value? We’d love to hear your input in the comments below.