Companies as Leaders in Sustainability

by Alisa Türck
27 Apr, 2021

Guest commentary by Alisa Türck, an expert in both digitalization and sustainability. As the co-founder of Media4Planet and Türck GmbH, she spearheads two companies for sustainable change in business. Here are her tips for aspiring changemakers

What is the impact of companies on sustainability?

For one thing, companies can act more sustainably in their core business by developing more sustainable products and packaging, and by making a significant contribution to the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) or the climate targets early, in the selection of service providers. 

Each company should identify where the greatest potential for action lies within its own organization. Many of them choose to focus on their products, production and processes.

However, companies will only achieve a greater sustainable impact if they also take every single employee, business partner and customer along with them on the path of the change process.

Education, information and continuous communication are absolutely essential and should not only be integrated into one-off campaigns, but permanently into the firm's daily routine.

Companies definitely have the potential to be the driving force in sustainability!

The 3 biggest points of leverage for companies:

1. Sustainability starts with leadership.

Businesses are role models – both internally and to the outside world. Leadership in particular plays a key role in corporate change. Since the topic of sustainability can have a high economic impact and requires long-term decisions, it's especially relevant to supervisory boards and the financial sector.

Even though the finance world is already calling for more transparency, businesses are usually still managed according to the "old" objectives – profit, EBITDA and return on investment are still the primary KPIs. New objectives, values and KPIs must be defined, which are above all long-term and sustainable.

In short, change must be supported in particular by the shareholders and the financial sector. Supervisory boards and advisory boards must represent all stakeholder interests more strongly and bring different perspectives to corporate management. Here lies a major point of leverage toward a more sustainable economy.

2. Knowledge and education are the key to a more sustainable economy.

Each company must first build up knowledge about sustainability in order to be able to act. Only then is the management level in a position to develop a sustainability strategy for the company and to define new goals and KPIs along with it.

In addition, it is also important to create awareness among employees, service providers and customers, to continuously build up knowledge and to enable employees to also develop more sustainable solutions in their area of activity.

Since very few companies already have sustainability experts working for them, cooperation and collaboration play a major role, for example:

  • Regular interaction with scientists, experts and specialized service providers
  • Establishing a sustainability advisory board
  • Regular dialogue within the company and transparent reporting of target achievements
  • Exchanging insight with other firms

3. Sustainability means change - and is implemented primarily via the employees.

Like many digital transformation projects that we support, the implementation of sustainability is linked to a process of change that starts with employees and people.

The best sustainability strategy is only successful if it is also practiced by the employees and when a new mindset, values and corporate culture are established.

The successful implementation of sustainability strategies in companies means:

  • a well-organized process of change
  • close communication with all departments and employees
  • the close involvement of the human resources department,
  • transparent communication of know-how and achieved goals.
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