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Integrated sustainability key to business resilience, according to new report



Long-term thinking and integration is key when it come sustainability and making business strategies more resilient, a report from consultants Corporate Citizenship argues.

The report – Creating Resilient Strategies – addresses the current strategy debate and considers if strategies are sufficiently far-sighted and robust enough to cope with a fast changing operating context. There are three versions of the report, each focussing on a different region – Asia-Pacific, North America and Europe.

Sixteen global companies, including Jaguar Land Rover, United Airlines and the National Grid, share their insights and experience in the report, highlighting the challenges they each faced and how they are creating resilient strategies to offset these.

The report states, “When company CEOs are hauled before legislators or investigated by the press to explain their tax affairs, employment practices or environmental catastrophes, something has clearly gone wrong.

“Also flawed are the companies that miss out because they fail to see the potential in social media, environmental protection or emerging makets’ burgeoning middle class.”

Executives of companies that find themselves in these positions have failed to develop strategies that consider the long term and changing priorities in the world, the reports adds. It notes that few companies hit the headlines “quite as spectacularly” as Starbucks, Apple or BP but that many companies have been “equally blinkered” about crucial changes in the world that affect their strategies.

Corporate Citizenship states that in its opinion strategic thinking is typically too narrow and doesn’t take into account shifts in priorities and principles. In order to be resilient to these changes businesses need to fully understand the complex context they operate in, which includes a wide variety of areas, such as the economy, the environment, culture, and political and social interactions.

Currently some companies are alert to immediate shifts in the economy and potentially disruptive technologies from within their industries. However, the report adds, few companies seem ready to look for long-term disruptive trends.

Another challenge that many businesses are facing is incorporating sustainability objectives across the whole business. Interviews conducted for the report suggest that one of the ways to effectively do this is to tie sustainability topics to commercial success, and as a result demonstrating the value of responsible business practices.

However, interviewees explained that in many cases senior managers are not concerned about sustainability issues so long as activities are legal. They also stated that sustainability tends to focus on citizenship programmes, ignoring the wide breadth of sustainability that covers issues such as taxation and resource management.

Photo: James Knight via Freeimages 

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Further reading:

McKinsey: company leaders rallying behind sustainability

What gets measured gets managed: sustainability in 21st century business

Nothing ‘soft and fluffy’ about sustainable business

Unep: corporates and investors should join forces for sustainable business

Sustainable business is simply ‘doing business in a better way’


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