Public awareness with regards to corporate irresponsibility and unsustainability is changing the rules of the game

Sustainable corporate social responsibility is becoming more and more important for companies. Public awareness with regards to corporate irresponsibility and unsustainability is changing the rules of the game. Consequently, an increasing number of organizations want to appear as sustainable companies who also take social responsibility. We are constantly seeing announcements in the media about companies looking for a sustainability director. Unfortunately, there are many companies that just want to hang on the “hype” of sustainability. Basically, they do not mean anything about it. Too many companies trying to green-wash themselves and appear much more environmentally friendly than they are.

If a company really mean something about sustainability, the sustainability function is not located far down in the organization. Previously I have lifted the sustainability function into the top management group. This was to show that the sustainability function is as importance as finance and strategy. Today greenwash generally takes form through various channels of communication. Where the environmental claim could be about a product or an initiative, etc.

Most companies today have recognized the importance the environment plays for their long-term business operations, whether it is manufacturing, product development, marketing and communications, or employee satisfaction. Even if more and more companies are paying it more attention, greenwash continues to grow. This is due a largely growing demand for green-related products and to the fact that the companies attempting to respond to that demand lack either the ability or the willingness to act on what is expected.

Definition of greenwashing

“Disinformation disseminated by an organization, etc., to present an environmentally responsible public image; a public image of environmental responsibility promulgated by or for an organization, etc., but perceived as being unfounded or intentionally misleading.”

What is a sustainable business model?

The most widely accepted definition of a business model is defined by as the “fundamental structures for how companies create, deliver and capture value.”  Osterwalder.

Bearing this in mind, sustainable business models shift sustainability to the very core of an organisation, influencing internal decisions rather than external perception.  This mean that the business models also require different relationships and new ways of thinking about customers, suppliers, operations, and waste. Thriving on disruptive innovation and proposing human-centred solutions, sustainable business models reinforce a sense of community. Such models also include cooperative collaboration, drastic transparency, solidarity, long-term commitment to goals and innovative utilisation of technology.

Corporate leaders have the responsibility, not to mention, the capability to lead the paradigm shift towards a more resilient and sustainable economy. If the product is design more creative, audacious, and sustainable, they can revolutionise the conventional system creating new rules of the game. As a corporate leader you should not wait for legislation etc to come into place or be served across the table. And in the meantime, think you can continue as before, everyone else does. Instead, sit in the driver’s seat and contribute to how regulations and legislation should look, based on what you think is most correct. Be the one who shapes tomorrow’s future for your industry.

A minimum of what is expected for your organization to be a sustainable business

There are eight areas that your company is expected practices for when it comes to sustainability

1 Know your products’ biggest impacts.

2 Be transparent.

3 Bolster your claims with independent verification.

4 Avoid making claims “in a vacuum.”

5 Enable and encourage consumers to act.

6 Understand your customers and target different market segments in different ways.

7 Anticipate game-changing technology.

8 Participate in the rule-making.

The way forward

All companies need to be aware of their responsibility to be become a sustainable business. Therefore, it is important that companies take time in redefining their role of business in society. By taking an active part in defining what the company should be for the future, one can also link both values and active action with being a sustainable company for tomorrow. Clearly communicate to employees, suppliers, customers, and investors that sustainability is one of your fundamental corporate values and encourage your entire organization to embrace the concept. 

  • Begin with a clear statement to everyone involved that sustainability is now part of your core values
  • Create or revise your mission statement to include a focus on the sustainability of the environment.
  • Create metrics and build accountability like every other corporate goal
  • Workshops on ways your organization can benefit from reducing waste and converting waste into reusable energy
  • Involve everyone in your value chain including employees, suppliers, customers, and investors to look for sustainable solutions
  • Create high level positions with the responsibility to identify profitable strategies that include sustainability measures
  • Make sustainability part of your every-day life and build it into your corporate culture.
  • Monetarily reward research and innovations that focus on sustainability
  • Include a review of your success towards sustainability goals in your quarterly and annual reports

To develop a sustainability company it needs leadership commitment, an ability to engage with multiple stakeholders along the value chain, widespread employee engagement and disciplined mechanisms for execution.

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