The Sustainability X Factor
Long before the phrase was demeaned by cheap TV talent shows, ‘X Factor’ referred to that difficult to ascertain quality that set the best ahead of the rest. For most entertainers the X Factor is the ability to project charisma to the audience. Everyone can learn to do this better, but obviously not everybody makes it to the top.
So what’s the X Factor in sustainability? What single factor distinguishes those who are forging ahead from those stumbling in roughly the right direction? What would I bottle and sell if I could?
The answer is undoubtedly ‘Leadership’.
- It takes leadership to set ambitious targets.
- It takes leadership to hold the organisation to those targets.
- It takes leadership to identify and exploit new opportunities in the low carbon agenda.
- It takes leadership to inspire employees to rise to the challenge.
- It takes leadership to challenge those holding the organisation back.
- It takes leadership to put a stop to unsustainable activities.
- It takes leadership to redesign products and services from scratch for sustainability.
- It takes leadership to kill off unsustainable product lines.
- It takes leadership to remove people who are never going to get on board.
- It takes leadership to build the supply chain you need.
- It takes leadership to drag your peers and competitors along with you.
This is another reason why I can’t stand the touchy-feely image of much of the corporate sustainability debate. Taking sustainability seriously is not about hugging trees, but facing up to a really tough corporate transformation mission. That’s why I wrote a book, The Green Executive, about it.
Sustainable business – no place for wimps.