Integrating sustainability deeply into core business strategy is the only way to build a truly sustainable business.
A recent article in the Harvard Business Review broke down the three elements of business alignment: defined long-term purpose, strategic effectiveness, and organizational effectiveness.
Your purpose is your direction - an aspiration to achieve something greater in the world. Strategic effectiveness includes the steps and plans taken to achieve that greater purpose. Organizational effectiveness is the technical, human, physical, and capital resources and capabilities a company has to support the strategy.
As organizations continue to face growing risk posed by climate change, there are many ways they are responding. Some companies “greenwash” or come perilously close, stating sustainability goals in a purpose/mission statement or misleading through relatively meaningless or deceptive sustainability "reports," while not assigning any strategic or organizational resources into actual progress toward a more sustainable business model.
A few organizations develop strategic plans that include aspirational goals and benchmarks along sustainability metrics, but then don’t ever fund the work (think, government).
Other organizations invest money in organizational effectiveness, like focusing heavily on waste reduction to save money and achieving a semblance of sustainable performance as a byproduct of that work, but likely not making any real progress toward reducing impact in a more meaningful way or aspiring for overall organizational sustainability.
Many companies are somewhere in the middle, picking and choosing where to aspire, plan, and invest resources, but alignment is missing across the business as a whole.
Fully integrating sustainability in all three of these areas – purpose, strategy, and organizational effectiveness/resources – is the only way to truly create a sustainable business. And, if you follow the logic of the article’s authors, this will result in a successful business as well.
Are you ready to start on the path of creating a meaningful sustainability strategy?