Ultra-races require a long breath and holistic view during preparation. The same could be said about the integration of sustainability into a company’s core. It demands a holistic understanding of sustainability across corporate boundaries to ecosystems and lifecycles. ESG is not a parallel event and must be placed at the center of the company and, sustainability is evolving into the license to operate and the foundation for long-term competitiveness and profitability.
For a professional athlete, a race is not only decided in the actual race, but in the entire preparation and the phases leading up to it. The same goes for the incorporation of sustainability into a company’s DNA. And while possible ways of being more sustainable are explored at various points of the organization, a holistic long-term and cross-functional anchoring is rarely done. Four key phases are essential for this:
1. Integration of sustainability into the corporate strategy und business model
First and foremost, the company’s sustainability ambition must be developed. Global standards and frameworks as well as materiality analysis may support in creating its own customized ESG-framework, identifying specific and individual focus areas. In this way, it is clearly defined what impact is to be created. Building from there, initiatives must be derived, and cross-functional responsibilities distributed to achieve a common sense of urgency and a shared commitment. Fully embedding sustainability into the core of the corporate strategy and business model is key.
2. Integration of sustainability into the corporate steering
Having the goal to win a race is the first step, but without a workout plan to track and measure your progress the whole journey is already set up to fail. A well-defined sustainability ambition is worth little if the integrated sustainability strategy and its expected impact are not made transparent and measured. Tangible metrics need to be defined and should be developed in a process-oriented manner and along the entire value chain, paying particular attention to the lifecycle view to identify all relevant drivers.
3. Integration of sustainability into all processes of the entire value chain and the value network
The best preparation is not enough when it comes to winning the race - it's all about implementing and integrating the training content at the crucial race moment and getting it on the road. Therefore, it is important to integrate sustainability aspects into the processes of the entire value chain and the value network itself. By doing this, these aspects become anchored in the day-to-day business and in the goals of managers and employees.
4. Integration into corporate culture and mindset
Behind every successful race is a successful trainer and support team. In the race for sustainable management, this is represented by the corporate culture. Corporate culture is probably the most important success factor in companies. Why? Because corporate culture defines the space of what happens and what is possible - in other words, it drives employees to top performance and ensures the integration of sustainable thinking and action.
The drivers for sustainability are no longer a matter of heart or a green image, but more and more employees, customers and investors expect sustainability to be integrated in a company`s core. Sustainability has moved from the periphery to the center and must be considered everywhere – in a company context, as well as in the entire value network. Today, no company can afford to ignore this topic. There are many dimensions to sustainability - those who understand and master these dimensions can lead a company to be part of successful value networks and ecosystems.