Sustainability strategy begins with 20/20 Vision

This is the first in a monthly column highlighting critical organizational design and development elements that support a sustainability strategy.

Why is it important to have a business strategy that has sustainability at its core? Because it can invoke passion and inspiration while benefiting the company financially. A shared vision, where sustainability is not a “project” but rather a philosophy that runs through every aspect of company culture, can capture hearts and minds while also increasing responsible growth of the triple bottom line.

When everyone is moving in the direction of a sustainable future, it’s easier to identify and capitalize on global trends. When companies view their overall business strategy through the lens of sustainability, near- and long-term issues like rapid urbanization, water shortages, constrained natural resources, changes in climate, modernization, mass connectivity and social unrest become challenges a company can help address, and opportunities for growth.

As Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.” This is true for sustainability planning, too — but with a sustainability vision infused throughout a company, there’s a clear focus, a roadmap, and a context for making operating decisions.

Not only that, but sustainability simply makes sense from a strategic business perspective. Some food for thought:

  • A 2011 study by MIT noted that sustainability is now a permanent part of 70 percent of corporate agendas.
  • According to a report by D S Simon Productions, "media initiatives with a corporate social responsibility focus generate 35-50 percent more positive media coverage on television, radio, web and social media than comparable programs without CSR.”
  • Social and environmental responsibility is also appreciated by investors: In the stock market, responsible assets rose more than 324 percent from 1995 to 2007, confirming growing interest in sustainability among investors.

So how does this type of ingrained, internalized, embraced sustainability start? It all starts with a vision. Some excellent examples of how a meaningful vision and mission creates powerful strategies are PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP), Layne Christensen (Nasdaq: LAYN), DuPont (NYSE: DD) and L'Oreal.

Photo of businessman and colleagues at presentation by Dmitriy Shironosov via Shutterstock.