Most businesses recognize the importance of creating sustainable businesses that can survive and have a positive impact in their communities. Everyone, from business leaders to employees, feel they have a responsibility to go beyond mere profit making models and use their influence to better the wider community however, they often lack the knowledge, skill-sets and expertise to properly execute. A recent McKinsey global survey, suggests businesses are struggling to fully integrate corporate sustainability strategies into their cultures. Businesses that open themselves up to this new perspective will reap a myriad of benefits. It is important to realize that every business is different when it comes to corporate social responsibility (CSR) and sustainability, but here are some key points to consider to help guide your success.
Start Where You Are
As the old Chinese proverb goes, ‘the best time to plant an oak tree was 20 years ago, the second best time in now’. Make an assessment of all CSR practices that are in place, talk to employees and ask them where they see the biggest room for impact. The benefit will be two-fold: it will allow employees on all levels of the organization to be included as well as increases the likelihood of adoption. It will also show you where the greatest opportunities are and help with team cohesion. You need to review all aspects of your business – are there areas of waste that could be reduced? Are there ways of helping others that also benefit you through strategic partnerships? Where are there opportunities to connect with your customers creating deeper engagement?
Share your Success
Putting your corporate social responsibility and sustainability objectives in action takes time and commitment, especially if you’re aim is to have it embedded it into the organizational values. You need to ensure there is proper motivation to inspire strong long-term action throughout the company. Whether this is the implementation of a recycling program, cutting costs by re-using material, or large-scale actions of sustainable supply chain management, it is critical to celebrate every step of the journey with all stake holders. Rome was not built in a day and each step of the journey is an opportunity to build more commitment.
Play the Long Game
Develop a long-term plan: set yourself long-term objectives and work backwards. Look at your business plan, your five-year growth plan, your shareholder engagement platforms and ensure your CSR and sustainability objectives are included. Remember CSR and sustainability should be embedded into your company culture and not a mere afterthought. Focus on articulating the benefit to the organization, which may include increased employee retention, development of better customer loyalty or financial diversification.
It is important that this is a long-term strategic corporate decision. Companies differ greatly in size agility, industry, regulation and the knowledge within the organization. Only you and your team know where you sit on your journey and what will be the key points to consider when launching a comprehensive corporate social responsibility and sustainability strategy. Identifying both drivers and gaps will be key to all stakeholders. Create a path forward that is stable enough to inspire, motivate and provide a strong sense of direction for all stake-holders, yet also dynamic enough to shift as needed. By embracing a new agenda, a new approach, and a new voice, sustainability will not only deliver a brighter future; it will give business a path forward in our fast-changing present.