Study Shows 3 Enablers for Sustainability Leadership
The global sustainability transformation is rapidly evolving. To enable a successful transformation and ultimately become a sustainability leader, fulfilling organizational prerequisites is key. Based on a study* of companies at the sustainability forefront and interviews with sustainability executives, Triathlon Group has identified three organizational enablers for success.
I. The importance of top-management commitment
Needless to say, top-management commitment is paramount to enable any change. Executives among sustainability-leading companies stress the importance of top management commitment to create an aligned sustainability direction of the organization, minimizing conflicting business interests. A well-established sustainability commitment creates a critical foundation to a joint sustainability and business direction of the organization, allocating resources for the transition, as well as underlining the importance of sustainability to the whole organization.
“Our single most important success factor is that our CEO is fully dedicated to sustainability”
- Sustainability executive, life science company
II. Establishing a team solely focused on sustainability
A shared denominator of the sustainability-leading companies is a dedicated sustainability team owning the overall targets and support to operationalize of the organization’s sustainability goals. A key success factor for the Sustainability team is to structure them as a separate entity, acting as a connecting bridge between the executive management team, and different functions of the organization to support cross-functional collaboration.
The responsibility of the Sustainability team should be to own and lead the sustainability strategy within the organization by steering a sustainability network spanning through the whole organization. The purpose of the sustainability team should also be to support and train the internal organization as well as to develop the right competences for the transformation.
III. Secure integration of sustainability in the whole organization
To secure a deep integration of sustainability within the organization’s business values an aligned sustainability vision across the organization is critical to ensure a natural integration of sustainability in all the core processes of the firm. By adopting measurable targets that are broken down and spread through the organization, the sustainability-leading organizations succeed in making different departments work towards the same goals. Moreover, clear business values and measurable targets enable organizations to adopt more long-term investment horizons, enabling more sustainability initiatives to result in a positive business value.
“For us, sustainability and financial performance is correlated, positive sustainability performance equals improved financial results”
- Sustainability manager, automotive company
Conclusion: Organize for sustainability to create competitiveness
These three success factors represent key organizational enablers for unlocking the full value potential of the sustainability transformation. To become a sustainability front-runner and reach the full value potential, a well-crafted sustainability strategy integrated in the overall strategy with ambitious targets and efficient measurements of sustainability performance need to be in place. Triathlon Group supports clients in setting the wanted sustainability position & defining goals, making concrete action plans, and implementing needed changes across functions and organizations.
*A study conducted by Triathlon Group interviewing sustainability executives at sustainability top ranked organizations to understand the rationale to lead the development of the industry’s sustainability performance and the best practices from their transition to a sustainability leader.