Sustainability is a megatrend. It will – and already does – come with a lot of changes: Regulations, markets and processes. This article series will show you how to integrate sustainability into your company – the easy way.
Why you should read this article
The headline lies. If you are not working on your sustainability performance for years already, there is no such thing as an ‘easy way’ to integrate sustainability into your company. If you are starting just now, your company will have to endure changes that come with sticks and stones and challenges. However, at least there is a very tangible way to master that journey and to pick up quick wins along the road. A bit like Pacman if you like.
Tangibility in that sense means connecting your company’salready existing strengths with the market potential of fitting sustainability solutions. Along that journey you might have to make some changes, bridge some flaws, make some turns, and question some of your beliefs. But – like spinach did Popeye – every step along that sustainability journey will make your company stronger and more resilient. If you do the journey the right way. This article series will show you a path as well as important stations along your journey, some quests you might run into, and examples of how to succeed in them. It will also – and very much so – ensure you that there is a way, step-by-step and that you can do this!
There is consensus about the necessity of becoming sustainable. As individuals. As companies. As states. However, even if as an individual you might welcome a net zero world, when it comes to the implementation of sustainability into your flawlessly running company engine, as a decision maker you might wish there would be some way around it. Don´t you already have enough problems to deal with? Energy prices going through the roof, interrupted supply chains, and in the very near future a lack of best-age employees. So, better not touch the sustainability issue and enjoy the sound of the contently humming engine, no? But your company engine isn´t running contently humming anymore. It coughs. And stutters. And you know it. Unless you don´t. Then you are either one of the rare ones who already got a grip on the issue – or you are in even more trouble than you thought.
Becoming sustainable as a company is a lot about mindset. Without the willingness and transformational ability to look and move in the right direction, you will not succeed in a sustainable and circular market. You will not succeed. Full stopp.
You know that this is true because you know that principle very well. Look at your life. You succeed at everything you have your mind set on. Meaning: REALLY set your mind on. Your goal. Your guiding star. On New Year’s Eve you might promise yourself you want to work out more, and get your body and health back from the you ten years ago. We tell you what: You will not. Why? Because your mind is (maybe even unconsciously) set on serving the needs of your family or your company first, or on any other issue that has been important to you until now. If your time doesn´t allow you to do both, your goals will clash, and your primary goal will win. Anytime. This is the power of mindset. We have a goal, and we steer all our doing towards its´ fulfillment. You will go to the gym and change your health routine and shape your life around that goal once you truly set your mind on it. Some do so after their first heart attack.
The same goes for company goals. Despite their different shapes and frosting, the common company purpose nowadays still is ‘to earn money’. You cannot just ‘add’ sustainability to that. If you tried, you would end up with neither this nor that. You would basically end up with the company version of ‘Coke Zero’. And, honestly, nobody wants that.
Should you stop earning money? Of course not! You just need to rid your company goals of double binds by truly including sustainability into the company’s’ purpose and not just adding it. You can move your company much quicker into the right direction – and earn much more money doing so – if the company actions synergize instead of bumping into each other like drunken cowboys at the carnival. We would be lying, however, if we would not tell you that there will always be trade-offs. At the current point, we can no longer have it all.
The odds are high that after reading this section, you still think you will be able to go to the gym additionally to your usual daily routine, just adding it on top. You might manage. It might work. Alas, there is a market for ‘Coke Zero’ after all, no?
That´s ok. Nobody blames you. We could even help you with that. Implementing sustainability under your current goals. But at some point, we will have the mindset discussion, because this elephant will stare at you at every turn you make. Until then, we will manage the double binds just fine. Because, you know, even if it´s easier to start from the top, you can basically start everywhere. And we show you, how. Let´s get to it.
Times are changing. Disruption is all over the place. Now is the time to check your transformational abilities. Within this article series, we are going to discuss how you can do that and what to look out for. Here are the cornerstones of your transformational ability in short:
What is your strategy?
Do you know how you can find out what you are actually aiming for? What is your company’s role in a net zero carbon economy and how will you provide value for the economy?
What values do your company culture represent?
Do your company’s internal and external values live up to a sustainable world? Can your customers agree to your goals and does your enterprise magnetically attract independently working and creative problem solvers as employees ?
Are your people up to the task or ready to grow into it?
Do you help your people to become life-long learners and act resilient during phases of change? Do they feel comfortable making decisions under uncertainty?
What about your structures and processes?
Are your processes enablers to decouple (your) resource consumption from company growth? Is your structure of competence distributed in a way to keep your company’s direction agile and dynamic?
We wrote about how important mindset is. However, mindset alone will get you only so far if you are the only one having it. Building functioning sustainable markets needs level playing fields. Those you get by integrating rules and standards and regulations, by making information transparent, and by joining initiatives that seize the momentum. Some of the urgent standards and instruments that need to be considered are:
– Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Life Cycle Assessments
– the EU Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (EU CSRD)
– the German Sustainable Supply Chain Due Diligence Act
– Science-based target initiative
This is a short but already hefty list. And it goes on. This can be overwhelming, we know. Even though you might do everything right already, set the right sustainability course and all, how can you find the time to navigate through all of that? Well, one step at a time. There is a path you can follow. And the good news is, you do not need to start from the beginning, but you can start from wherever you are right now. And even if you don´t know, where exactly you are right now, there is a way to jump that train, anyway. You´ll see.
To master sustainability and hence the demands of your future markets, you need to integrate said standards and instruments into your running company engine. And you preferably do so without causing any hick-ups. That seems about as easy as an open-heart surgery. And as desirable. No kidding. No wonder companies try to avoid the holistic approach and prefer to go with the removal of a mole instead. However, there is no advantage in being mole-free once the heart stopped. So, open-heart surgery it is? Well, kind of. But it needs to be neither as spectacular nor as dangerous as it seems. Transformational ability and sustainability standards can be integrated into a company step by step. The pathway can be adapted to your objectives and the first steps will tackle the most urgent challenges you face today. Reminding you of the Pacman metaphor from the first paragraph, there is this ‘very tangible way to master that journey and to pick up quick wins along the road’.
Whatever needs to be integrated can be integrated step by step into the running engine of your company while keeping it humming constantly.
If you are nervous about the integration and fear hick-ups, remember that sustainability also means becomingfuture-proof and competitive in the long term. In this light, this graphic provides an overviewof what is required for a successful sustainable transformation. Yes, it is all of it. However, it is not all of it at the same time, to start with at least. The starting point will be defined by your current challenges, and you will build an individual pathway across the grid that helps you thrive and build your capacities to transform over time.
The current system is crumbling. One after the other, the dominos are falling. Inflation, recession, changing global power structure and disruption are the new normal, while desperately clinging to the status quo hinders quick adaptation to the changes. This is one way to tell the story. Another would be that flow allows change and transformation. The more flow, the more dynamic, the more magic for our economic and ecologically sustainable future can be done. In that sense: “Never let a good crisis got o waste” – Winston Churchill
What do you think: Integrating sustainability into your company is doable, isn’t it? We are curious about your feedback!
This is a first contribution of an article series. Throughout this series, you will see examples of different company pathways, starting from different challenges (Articles 2 – 5). In these examples, we show how some of the above mentioned standards and requirements can be integrated into a company and given structures. Also, we show a general structure as to how an integration could look – like a blueprint of sorts (Article 6).
Do you have questions, goals, implementation ideas and / or would like to have a direct contact? We are looking forward to your message!