Sustainability and your business can be an uneasy mix. Sustainability can be both an opportunity and a risk for your business. Unfortunately, it’s easy to miss both the opportunities and the risks beneath layers of confusing jargon, greenwashing or denial.
The key is understanding which sustainability concerns have the potential to affect the strategy and success of the company, and how. The range of potential sustainability issues is infinite, while business resources are painfully finite.
The challenges for any business
To make sense out of sustainability, any business needs to figure out:
- What does sustainability really mean for us?
- What are the real opportunities and risks that sustainability issues may create for us?
- How does sustainability integrate with our business’ strategy?
- How do we articulate all that in clear, compelling ways?
- How do we translate that into practical, meaningful action across the business?
Potential traps along the path
Externally, numerous NGOs, professional groups, consultants and competitors may set expectations that are unrealistic or just irrelevant for your business. They will use different terms with confused, overlapping meanings including sustainability, CSR, global citizenship and ESG. Some will push costly expectations about reporting without focusing on performance.
Internally, senior management may be distracted or skeptical, while middle management waits for clear signals from senior management. The culture may discourage taking a progressive approach: sustainability may not be “politically correct” inside the management ranks (even as employees may be pushing for a more progressive approach). Or top executives may push for unrealistic forward leaps, based on what they see other companies’ executives doing (or claiming to do).
In some cases, senior leadership may have a great strategy that uses sustainability issues to help drive innovation and even transformation, setting the company on a path for growth and greatness – but may not have brought middle management along with them.
Nadler Strategy’s Approach
Nadler Strategy’s approach is to help clients truly integrate sustainability and business strategy into one clear, coherent conversation. This process helps companies develop answers to the challenges while avoiding the traps. A focused series of workshops involve expanding groups of participants in concrete, meaningful work to figure out what really matters. Along the way, consensus is built that helps turn strategy into action.
At the same time, Nadler Strategy does not apply one pre-determined template to every company. One business may be taking the first hesitant steps toward sustainability. Another may have a top-down mandate to do something about sustainability, with no clear guidance on what that is. Yet another company may have an abundance of projects and initiatives – but the plural of initiative is not strategy, and all that effort may not translate into progress and value. In each case, Nadler Strategy crafts the approach to fit the business, markets, strategy and culture of the client. Working closely with client teams and engaging other partner organizations as need, Nadler Strategy helps clients find the opportunities, manage the risks and integrate sustainability into the strategy of the business.