Why sustainability and social entrepreneurship is changing the way business is done
Companies today occupy a space where constant business transformation is driven by a variety of factors including the internet, empowered consumers and evolving market demands. Long-term sustainability in today’s world requires a company’s dedicated focus on strategic goals, an eye toward on the future, and a close focus on the rapidly evolving preferences of customers who are growing increasingly aware of sustainability.
And it’s because of this growth in awareness that I think it is imperative for companies to integrate an emotional connection into their factual initiatives in order to drive engagement with the organisation’s sustainability vision and values.
Remember, when you ask people to adapt to a new or different reality, they need to understand the emotional case for the change so they can feel truly committed to the transformation offered by a sustainability plan. Bringing the details of what will change creates a clear picture of what the change means for people personally and not just for the business.
The importance of long-term planning
Successful sustainability plans also require ongoing development in the long-term.
A lasting and meaningful sustainability plan necessitates not just the continuation of one particular programme, but also the development of relationships, practices and procedures that become an enduring part of that business’s community in the long-term.
Indeed this ‘long term’ message lies at the heart of the report by the Business & Sustainable Development Commission. If you have read it, the report highlights that sustainable business models are ‘the key to unlocking US$12 trillion in economic opportunities and creating up to 380 million jobs a year by 2030’. According to the Commission, ‘putting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), or Global Goals, at the heart of the world’s economic strategy could unleash a step-change in growth and productivity, with an investment boom in sustainable infrastructure as a critical driver. However, this will not happen without an essential change in the business and investment community’.
In short, the business community needs to initiate a call to action to tackle social and environmental challenges in order to rebuild people’s trust and confidence.
Meet the new, integrated business mindset
In order to fully understand sustainability as an opportunity and to develop a long-term plan for sustainability, companies need to adopt sustainability ‘mind-set’ across their entire organisational infrastructure. Now addressing the organisation culture can’t be achieved overnight.
It needs persistence and determination to ensure that the business sends consistent strong, unified messages to staff, customers and stakeholders endorsing innovative, inclusive and ethical behaviour in a more inclusive and effective way. This is a necessary position to adopt in order to identify and pursue value-enhancing opportunities in the long term.
So how can companies attain this mind-set?
Well, there are no formal ‘rules’ to follow per se; it comes into force as a natural consequence of the sustainability challenges and opportunities faced by business in the long term, thus also making solutions long term.
The current leadership and business mind-set needs to change from a tendency to take a partial view of the relationship between business and the eco-system because this particular position sees business’s relationship to nature as separate and reducible solely to market transactions. Unfortunately, this isolated point might potentially withhold businesses from the innovations that are necessary to profitably address the significant systemic challenges in the future.
The risk of seeing sustainability with an isolated mind like this means that some companies will focus mainly on the portion of the business and ecosystem relationship that can be assessed quantitatively not qualitatively.
Given this, an integrated mindset that combines an analytical perspective with a less measurable, more qualitative insights, will be the key way to address the challenge of sustainable business in a profitable way.
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