Thursday, June 10, 2010

10 Steps to Sustainability-Driven Innovation

1. Make innovating for sustainability a part of your company's vision: Update your company's stated visions, mission and list of values or principles to ensure that sustainability is at the heart, so that your company is publicly identified, both internally and externally, as sustainability-driven.

2. Formulate a strategy with sustainability at its heart: To really be effective, sustainability must be included in a new formulation of your business strategy. Simply bolting it on to an existing strategy is likely to leave it marginalised and insignificant.

3. Embed sustainability in every part of your business: Create an ongoing process for getting each part of the company to recognise and understand its environmental, economic and social impacts, and get each part thinking about how they can use that knowledge to innovate through a systematic and integrated approach.

4. Walk the talk: Top leadership in the business has to believe in it. Staff and other stakeholders need to hear their leaders explain regularly what responsibility and sustainability mean for the business and the innovation possibilities they hold, and see the actual programs implemented.

5. Set up a body with the power to make sustainability matter: Many of the leading sustainability-driven companies have a board committee devoted to ensuring that things move ahead. Others have a leading non-executive director in charge, while others still have a mixed committee of executives and non-executives. Whatever the arrangement, it is essential that the company regularly addresses sustainability and its strategic opportunities at the very highest level of decision making. Consider, review, evaluate and supervise integrated environmental, social and ethical policies. In collaboration with top management, make sure that responsibility and sustainability are taken into account during strategy formulations Advise the board of directors on responsibility and sustainability issues.

6. Set firm rules: Establish a code of conduct on sustainability covering both your employees and other stakeholders in your business, stating clearly that anyone who doesn't adhere to it has no place in your company or connected to your company.

7. Bring your stakeholders on board: Identify all the stakeholders in your business - shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers, the communities in which you operate - and engage with them on thinking about sustainability. Actively encourage them to participate in your innovation and encourage them to develop sustainable opportunities themselves.

8. Use people power: Ensure that sustainability is a clearly stated value at every stage of your people management process, whether it's advertising for staff, hiring, induction, performance appraisal, remuneration or promotion. Create a training department that includes a strong focus on creativity and innovation based on sustainability.

9. Join networks: A growing number of organisations, networks and other bodies dedicated to encouraging sustainable business are emerging. Get involved with groups such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the UN Global Compact, the International Business Leaders Forum and similar local bodies. Take part in sustainability investment rankings and monitors such as the Dow Jones Sustainability Indexes and the Corporate Responsibility Index.

10. Think beyond reporting: Align all business systems with the company's vision of sustainability. Corporate social responsibility reporting helps focus but it should not be viewed as an end in itself. Sustainability should run through every core system, from talent management to supplier evaluation, customer relationship management (CRM), and, of course, the balanced scorecard. This approach can turn focus into coordinated action that matters.

Source: A New Mindset for Corporate Sustainability
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