Embedding sustainable business culture
Sustainability is a global concern and the New Zealand Government encourages businesses to adopt more sustainable practices, including carbon emission reductions. But implementing a genuine and impactful sustainability strategy is severely hindered by conflicting trade-offs between fundamental business principles and sustainability objectives. If businesses, leaders, and their performance indicators are solely profit-focused, they are not likely to achieve true sustainability despite making steady progress on their sustainability plan. In this case, in business-as-usual situations, even ethical loyalties to pro-sustainability values are often insufficient to drive companies to compromise on their profit margins for the sake of sustainability. One then must guard against selectively implementing ideas – picking the low-hanging fruit and achieving low-impact results (the tick-box exercise).
In response to this and other issues, working with a software development company I developed the comprehensive business sustainability strategy, or program, defined in my Master of Professional Practice thesis. This sustainability program comprises a conceptual framework, an implementation model, a leadership model, and a responsibilities matrix. I have also included a process, various templates, and sample decision-making tools. The main benefit of this simple, ready-to-use, comprehensive sustainability program is the ability for companies to be self-reliant and autonomous in their pursuit of sustainability and quickly move past the tick-box stage of sustainability implementation - to the point of real impact readiness.
One of the components is an open and transparent arena for business leaders and sustainability professionals to confront and explore the tensions between profit and values - guided by the practicality of ideas. This mechanism involves a managed process of reflection, action, and feedback to enable growth. With a true commitment and the proposed action-feedback process, sustainability professionals and leaders can expand the company’s sustainability awareness, pro-sustainability values and culture in business-practical ways, thereby incrementally growing their appetite and abilities to generate realistic and beneficial genuine sustainability innovation over time.