“How can my business be more sustainable?”. If you have ever wondered this, you’re not alone. Countless companies across the globe are attempting to green their operations; however, the failure rate for business sustainability initiatives is surprisingly high. In fact, according to research by Bain & Company, the failure rate is around 98%.
The first step towards making your own business more sustainable is understanding the factors behind this daunting statistic. This is important to do as it allows you to learn from the mistakes of others and enter the sustainability space prepared, educated, and much more likely to succeed.
A lack of senior leadership support makes it all the more difficult for companies to overcome barriers to meaningful change. In fact, the greatest factor of the success of sustainability initiatives is support from senior leadership. Involvement from the executive-level not only provides momentum for the sustainability journey, it also allows for large-scale and impactful actions to take place. Senior leadership have the authority to make tough decisions in the name of sustainability, such as changing supply-chains, which can quickly drive the organisation towards success.
Many executives are reluctant to publicly share sustainability targets and commitments, fearing the negative impacts that should incur if they fail. However, making public commitments featuring quantitative targets is actually a key predictor of success in sustainability initiatives. This is, in part, because of the sense of commitment and accountability that is created, ensuring that the sustainability initiatives are given proper attention and prioritisation.
Many managers and employees are sceptical to the importance of sustainability initiatives, considering them non-essential to business. Therefore, sustainability efforts fall to the bottom of the staff’s to-do list, especially when their time is already stretched thin. While staff’s scepticism towards these initiatives can be remedied through education, especially of the links between sustainable processes and business success, it is also important that proper time is allocated to employees taking on the sustainability work as well as their usual roles.
When sustainability is not embedded into the core processes, incentives, and accountability systems of a business, initiatives will all but certainly fail. Successful organisations hold managers responsible for delivering key sustainability results and offer monetary incentives to reward sustainability performance. They also address sustainability with the same level of importance as other core KPIs, ensuring processes of sustainability measurement, management, and reporting are afforded proper time and attention.
So, what can we learn from these mistakes and how can we avoid making them?:
This can be done by ensuring senior leadership are present during initiative meetings and regularly updated on any progress, problems, or successes by the sustainability team.
In order to make target-based commitments, some level of measurement is required. A carbon footprint audit is a brilliant way to do this, and allows you to easily make comparisons and communicate improvement.
Educating staff on what the sustainability initiative is, why the company is doing it, what it entails, and what the impact of it will be can really help staff to get on board.
Sustainability should be regarded with the same level of importance as other core KPIs, ensuring processes of sustainability measurement, management, and reporting are afforded proper time and attention. In order for this to happen, all of the above teachings need to be incorporated and continually followed.