The competitive edge of corporate sustainability
Sustainability is changing how businesses work and compete. Many leading companies realise that an innovative CR strategy, aligned with goals and resources, delivers a competitive edge. This competitive edge has seen many companies increase their ROI plus realise and take advantage of opportunities in new markets.
Here’s how you can make the business case for sustainability:
- Benchmark leading CR companies that have developed and embedded sustainability strategies that give them the competitive edge both now and in the future.
- Make sure your initiatives succeed first time - Difficulties can lie with having to experiment with what CR initiatives will work for your company. Start small, perhaps with a pilot project or two. Search out case studies of how the likes of Unilever, Walmart, Marks & Spencer, and IBM have researched, developed and implemented CR within their companies. Apply and/or customize ideas that work for you and your company
- Sell the benefits of CR internally – Conduct research on the Internet to find how public companies in particular have built the business case for CR initiatives. Facts and figures to help bring the business case to life can often be found in company annual reports. Executives have been known to respond positively when presented with reports on what their competition is doing successfully – and that includes embedding sustainability.
- Identify new business opportunities - Many companies have discovered new markets for their products. Embedding sustainability helped them do this and it can do the same for you. Some companies have successfully used sustainability to burnish a brand image and build brand equity.
- Successfully embed sustainability throughout your company – Corporate sustainability will affect your company's governance, R&D, value chain, in HR, in internal processes and in environmental health and safety. But like EHS, sustainability must be a core cultural value in your business and an accepted part of mainstream business processes.
Sustainability demands a broad view of issues and impacts, as well as a working understanding of what the company does and how. To succeed with sustainability, you must gather and analyze intelligence . Use this data to help you successfully embed CR throughout your company and value chain.
Understanding and developing a CR roadmap for your company can be certainly a formidable challenge.
Here are six phases to help you develop your company's CR roadmap...
- Phase 1: INSIGHT - consisting of stakeholder views, a science or fact-based understanding of the issues, and a benchmark of competitors and peers
- Phase 2: Making a public commitment in terms of the “ headline goal” – perhaps reducing carbon by 30%, for example – but also in more qualitative terms where you need to
- Phase 3: An overall target requires a baseline that says here you are now. Even for qualitative targets, you need to be able to say what the status is
- Phase 4 : Allocating responsibility for action, you need to get the business to own the baseline, own the target and own the achievement of the goal. This is very similar to working to have your employees “own” the company safety processes.
- Phase 5: Public reporting of progress – including annual reports. This is where you revisit what you said you’d do, and work to create the sense of continuity and recommitment
- Phase 6: Transparently revisit and challenge the original goal.