Industry and sustainability: How do companies discover their path to success?

TRANSFORMATION // 24.11.2021


A few days ago, the climate conference in Glasgow came to an end with the adoption of the ‘Glasgow Pact’. Even though results are evaluated and discussed differently, it is clear that there is a global consensus and political will to act to accelerate a transformation towards a CO2-neutral economy. Industry also has a pioneering role to play. Companies are expected to live up to their responsibilities.  For example, former US President Barack Obama said in his speech at the climate summit: “Companies will lose customers and top-flight employees if they’re not on the right side of this issue.” Industry representatives also expressed optimism that the goals associated with the transformation can be achieved and that companies can now better assess the respective framework conditions.


Increasing complexity as a barrier to goal-oriented action


So, is industry now leading the way and developing programs that pursue both sustainability goals and economic success in an integrated way? It doesn’t quite seem that simple. After all, even though necessity and entrepreneurial added value of sustainable management are clear for many companies, action often remains halfhearted. This conclusion was also drawn by the CEO Sustainability Study, conducted by the UN Global Compact and Accenture Strategy in 2019. It states: “Despite growing commitment, business leaders are facing an ever more challenging business environment.” Our experience also shows that an increased complexity makes it difficult for companies to find appropriate attention within the demanding day-to-day business for setting up specific measures and projects.

And it does not get easier by the fact that, in reality, there is no ‘single’ path to success. “There is not just one lever or two, the process is far too complex for that,” says HeidelbergCement manager Knell. A transformation towards a future-proof company is not a linear process that can be planned on the drawing board. It seems like a dilemma – you can’t make decisions in blind flight and free up scarce resources for activities and investments without understanding the success of the measures. But how to get the necessary transparency to be able to initiate sustainable entrepreneurial measures in a promising way?


Don’t make sustainability a silo issue


Many institutions offer sustainability standards that can be used as a basis for analyses. Most of these standards are based on scientific findings and thus in general provide good guidance. However, the analyses often have kind of checklist character with a very high degree of standardization in the application process. This means that the analysis does not reflect adequately context and objectives of the company. Often, therefore, it is difficult for the company to evaluate the result of such an analysis and to identify the connection to the strategy, thus, corresponding goal-oriented action is unclear. In this light, standardized analyses can be a trigger for sustainability being developed as a silo topic within a company, with a severely limited reference to the strategic orientation and core business. Sustainability departments that are created in companies and are not integrated into the corporate processes can be found frequently and may serve as an example. Employees of these departments often feel isolated and without a lever to do justice to their actual task. In the best case, sustainability is then handled as a mere hygiene factor for the existing operations and services – although it should have long been clear that sustainable management is a key strategic driver for the future success of the company.


Transparency as a basis for trust in one’s own ability to act


Transparency can only truly be created if the analysis is linked to the context and goals of the company. Such an integrated view highlights specific risks and opportunities of sustainability. At the same time, fields of action can be identified that are aligned with the objectives and thus success factors for the own company will be recognizable.

Here is an example: Many companies calculate the carbon footprint, partly also for individual products, in order to gain transparency with regard to the climate impact of the company’s activities. It is also usually clear that a reduction of the carbon footprint up to carbon neutrality in a few decades is required and desired. The open question now is: How can this reduction be linked to the strategic development of the company? Does it make sense to change the energy supply in the long term? Does the company need new production facilities or should the design of existing products be adapted? Which of these measures should now be prioritized to enable a successful development of the company? Obviously, an answer to this cannot be derived from standardized checklists, it requires contextualization of data and standards according to the individual environment of the company. Checklists and standards can be helpful, but an off-the-shelf analysis does not create the confidence in one’s own ability to act, in contrast to a tailor-made exploration. This confidence is ultimately the basis for the path to success towards a future-proof company.


Let us know: Do you know the path to success for sustainable management in your company or which challenges make it difficult to integrate sustainability with the corporate goals?




To dive deeper:
Quick-Check Sustainability Strategy


A tailor-made analysis does not have to be time-consuming and resource intensive. ENDURE consulting offers a tailor-made quick check as a basis for companies to create transparency in a short time and thus develop their own ‘business case’ of sustainability. Even though the Quick-Check draws on an up-to-date knowledge base, well-founded structure and years of experience, it is a tailor-made analysis tool. The specific approach is tailored to the questions and goals of the company. Afterwards, the analysis is carried out on the basis of our knowledge base, interviews and documents provided by the company. Further information is available on our Sustainability Strategy overview.


Header image source: L


TRANSFORMATION // 12.10.2021

The business case for sustainability

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