The leadership required to change a company to embrace Sustainability.
CSR gives a competitive advantage
For most companies Sustainability should have seized to be a marketing tool. There is sufficient proof that companies with a strong emphasis on CSR (of which sustainability is an important aspect) out perform their peers. This makes sustainability (and the other aspects of CSR) a strategic tool to improve the company.
CSR means fundamentally changing the DNA
It is also clear to most companies that sustainability should be more than window dressing. A company that does not fundamentally incorporate sustainability into its product and services will not convince consumers and find that its efforts do not bring the returns it feels it deserves.
- First of all it should be clear that the company cannot continue doing what it has been doing in a different way. Taking sustainability serious means that companies have to look at the way they do their business in every aspect of that business. The cars driven by its sales people, the number of flights taken by senior management, the energy use of its offices, the extend to which it adheres to the cradle to cradle principle and the complete carbon footprint of its products and services.
- Secondly companies should realise that sustainability is a long process. Management cannot implement a quick top down programme, sustainability has to be incorporated in the DNA of the organisation in a determined and if necessary prolonged move.
Strong modern leadership is required
Embracing sustainability however is not an easy task. It requires fundamentally changing the company and therefore requires strong leadership. This leadership is different from traditional leadership.
5 leadership practices are relevant
1. Use the momentum
2. Change selectively
3. Encourage experiments
4. Create openness and frankness
5. Crowd-source ideas
1. The leader should use the momentum of the current economic slowdown to install the need for fundamental change. He should create an urgency to change what and how work is done and who does it. This is a delicate task as too much pressure can cause panic and inertia, whereas too little pressure will lead to a return to old ways.
2. The leader should only change those things and move those people that prevent the required change; not everything has to be changed.
3. The leader should encourage experiments. The vision does not have to be produced as a Grand Design by the senior management, it has to be the consequence of much trial and error.
4. The leader should encourage a culture of openness and frankness. In many companies the status quo is protected by higher management preventing any sound of discontend or change to surface at the top floor.
5. The leader should mobilize everyone withing the organisation using for instance the newly developed crowd sourcing methods.