This week I received an official certificate from successfully completing an 8-week online course in Business Sustainability Management at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL). It was amazing to collaborate with sustainability-minded specialists from all over the world representing different industries and being entrepreneurs or from private or public sector organisations.
How to make sustainability as the core of the business? Is the business a good corporate citizen? Companies need to rethink their business practices from products and services, business processes and supply chains aspects. The course reinforced the need for change regardless the industry. Now, I would like to share with you the five most important aspects businesses must excel when making a systemic change towards sustainability.
1. Systems thinking
Systems thinking means viewing problems as part of an overall system, holistically. Fresh water use, for example, as a global issue, must be looked at from social, environmental, economical and governance aspects. An important starting point is to identify the global challenges and the potential industry specific challenges that the company’s operations have an impact.
2. Long-term mindset
Connecting sustainability to the business strategy requires a long-term mindset. Moving away from the short-term “take-make-waste” linear consumption models to the long-term “take-make-use-reuse” multi-cycle model is also taking a new mindset of looking at the business making. Thinking about the product end of life is extremely important and necessary in order to benefit from circular economy. In the short-term business models where creating quick profits to the shareholders does control the business decisions, in the long-term sustainable business model investments are made regarding long-term growth.
Businesses that are really embedding sustainability into their strategy are open, honest and transparent on what they are doing. Being transparent also means telling openly about the problems, the “why” factor, and how the company aims at tackling the problems. The power of communication and marketing techniques assure the right message delivery to the customers and other stakeholders. Over claiming and telling in bland terms about how much the company cares about the society and environment and states how sustainable their products are, proves Greenwashing.
4. Stakeholder and employee engagement
Sustainability marketing aims at creating an open dialogue with the customers and other stakeholders by helping them to become more sustainable. The communication must “touch” somehow the people, in an emotional level. For that, it is important to place socio-ecological problems and consumers overall behavior to the core of sustainability marketing instead of just selling products and services.
Employees, who are fully engaged to the mission of the company and skilled in delivering the company sustainability message, are keys for success. Each company needs these sustainability champions who act as the levers of change inside the company by teaching the other employees in sustainability. For overall employee engagement it is important that each employee understands the connection between sustainability and their daily work.
Better results and greater progress can be achieved by creating efficient partnerships. Each partner brings different resources and skills to the partnership. Strong network for knowledge and best practices sharing provides the group with greater credibility and support for achieving their common sustainability goals. Innovations, scaling and redefining the industry standards are examples of successful results of partnerships. One example of collaboration is a pre-competitive setting where the aim is to tackle something in the industry which hasn’t been solved before. Partnering with others, the companies get many more benefits than what they would get if acting alone.
I can highly recommend it!
I highly recommend the 8-week online course in Business Sustainability Management at the University of Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) for anyone passionate about business sustainability. It gives the tools you need to bring forward ambitious sustainability plans either in a company you work for, in sustainability consulting to help your clients or in the job search of any sustainability related job.
The extremely well-structured material with online discussion groups, interesting assignments and tutors competence and support all deserve 10/10. It’s totally worth of every penny! You will connect and exchange with so many like-minded professionals from different industries and might even find a business partner!
I personally disconnected from social life for the duration of the course. With a full time job I had only time for the course during the evenings and weekends. The course gave me the last push, enough courage and competence to make a radical change in my professional life. A total shift from one career path to another. I met a like-minded person with similar ideas in the course and I am currently building a new business with this business partner around business sustainability.