The pursuit of growth and profit at all costs has been put on pause and reset. As we come out of the pandemic, a path with more caring and respect for people and our environment is becoming core to business strategy, as well as government policy around the world.
The World Bank, IMF and European Commission have all put out clear statements which indicate that sustainability will be a key feature in the build-back of economies world-wide. The Chinese government’s 5-year plan also foregrounds the transition to a low-carbon economy.
In South Africa, President Ramaphosa’s economic adviser Trudi Makhaya recently stated: “ The green economy … represents both opportunities to adapt our economy to climate change but also to create new industries.”
Even Eskom under CEO Andre De Ruyter has seen the light and is finally and publicly behind a shift to more use of renewable energy.
It’s all very heartening to see. However business leaders interested in taking their company on the path to sustainability may initially find the road rocky.
How do they persuade their management that addressing the environmental, social and governance impacts of the business will bring adequate returns?
Where do they locate the drive to sustainability within the organisation? Will it be managed from strategy, HR, SHEQ, marketing, operations? How to engage staff and encourage the necessary culture change? How will suppliers be brought on board?
How will progress be reported on, and achievements communicated internally and externally? How to avoid greenwashing?
These and similar challenges are par for the course. The road to sustainability is, by nature, long and winding. And, like any other journey through new territory, experienced guidance along the way is well advised.
– Hugh Tyrrell is founder/director of GreenEdge Communication and a sustainable business coach.