Sustainability Champion: Finding the Business Value

Yesterday, I talked about the different reactions that business functions have to sustainability and the need to get these groups on the same page. There are two key elements in a shared viewpoint that lead to business value from sustainability.

First, the shared viewpoint needs to reinforce the core strategic strength, capability, or competence of the corporation. This involves a shift from the mindset that sustainability is just for society or the environment’s sake, to one that advances the core value proposition of the company. When you start looking at sustainability through this lens of core strengths, you begin to speak the language of business. You can then tailor this language to the dialect of each distinct business group in the company and inspire every employee in the company.

Second, environmental and societal benefits need to become natural and tangible by-products of a determined pursuit of sustainability as defined in terms of the core strength of the company. The challenge here is to ensure that these externalities do not get neglected, or “greenwashed” away and ensuring that the right kinds of environmental and societal benefits get multiplied. But the lens of core strengths enables companies to get more focused on their priorities regarding society and the environment.

This kind of a shared perspective moves the company away from merely seeing sustainability as an obligation that gets abandoned when times get tough, and turns sustainability into a value proposition that can motivate every employee to make big changes.