Strategy Secrets of the Sustainability Masterminds
On Tuesday we had the fifth meeting of the Corporate Sustainability Mastermind Group (CoSM) – the small group of senior sustainability executives from large organisations which I facilitate on a quarterly basis. We met in what was probably our best location yet, the Undercroft at the Live Theatre Newcastle. Most of the room is mediaeval, but those timbers in the background were recycled from Elizabethan ships. It has been used for storing flammable materials, French prisoners during the Napoleonic Wars and those press-ganged into the Navy – certainly the huge thick metal doors gave the place a slight penitentiary feel.
I was press-ganging the members into discussing next generation sustainability strategies – a massive topic which we are going to continue next time. The Group operates under the Chatham House Rule, so I can’t reveal who said what, but here are some highlights:
- Most organisations need to shift from an organisation focussed strategy to a product focussed strategy;
- That shift means engaging with the market and addressing supply chains are essential steps;
- A sustainability strategy must be built around the business drivers for that organisation – so a meaningful understanding of drivers is a prerequisite;
- Stretch targets raise sights and broaden thinking – however they must remain credible;
- Won’t achieve the endpoint without breaking the journey down into intermediate steps;
- Is the Brundtland definition of sustainability ambitious enough? Should we not want to improve the world for future generations?
- But in such net positive thinking, how do you make sure you don’t cheat and claim others’ efforts for yourself?
- At what point do sustainability and business strategies converge into one? They will inevitably do so;
- Communicate the strategy using big clear statements, underpinned by clarifying statements, data and caveats;
- What you stop doing is as important, if not more so, as what you start doing.
As always, the real benefit was how we got to these generic points – and the examples of company specific challenges and shortcuts members threw in to the discussion.
The CoSM Group is for senior sustainability managers in large organisations which meets quarterly in great locations for open and frank discussion – and NO Powerpoint. If you’d like to learn more, please drop me a line.