Businesses are preparing for the new normal. This is an opportune moment for corporate sustainability to be part of the mainstream business agenda; to enable true innovation in how businesses can balance profitability with social prosperity and environmental thrivability.
In a recent poll conducted by Global Compact Network Malaysia with 50 corporate sustainability practitioners (CSPs), 60% said that sustainability functions are not classified as essential personal, however, 100% of respondents were positive to use the covid crisis as the springboard to mainstream sustainability agenda. But how can CSPs mainstream the sustainability agenda moving forward?
Here are 5 actions CSPs can take, to prepare for the new normal business scenarios:
- Engage with leadership to establish a purpose statement
This crisis has brought out the “human” aspect of business, with numerous examples of how the private sector is taking a leading role (some even without regulatory pressure) to contribute towards needed social and environmental causes. This points to the inherent fact that businesses are not merely engines of profit but are agile to fill up sustainability voids that cannot be covered by other actors. CSPs need to provide a beyond bottom line approach to top management to consider during their strategy meets.
- Why is the business in existence?
- How are we contributing to the society and planet? Is this enough?
- If we are extinct, will we be missed? What is our legacy?
- Partner with HR to organize a corporate purpose workshop for your leadership team
- Include sustainability topics as part of your organization Balanced Scorecard and/or Business Canvas
2. Educate & develop talent for sustainable development centric decision making
CSPs cannot drive the sustainability agenda alone. This can only be done when all leaders are factoring sustainability related angles when making decisions. Recognize that sustainability will mean differently across functions, hence CSPs role is to enable a macro sustainability decision framework that acts to guide strategic, operational and tactical decisions by differing business functions.
- Have you considered the sustainability risks and opportunities?
- How can sustainability initiatives factor into our Business Continuity Plans?
- How will this decision impact our external sustainability score/ratings/reputation?
- Develop a Sustainability Decision Making Toolkit
- Partner with Corporate Strategy to embed sustainability risks as material issues to your organization
3. Drive sustainability awareness organization wide to establish a sustainability culture
It is challenging to justify sustainability investment when the organization mindset views it solely as a cost factor. CSPs need to seed and nurture a sustainability culture that rewards sustainable behaviours and promotes sustainability corporate actions by engaging every employee of the business.
- What can every employee do to contribute to sustainable development?
- How do we bring everyone to the same level of understanding?
- How do we scale up levels of engagement across the organization?
- Develop a Corporate Sustainability Handbook
- Provide localized digital learning modules on sustainability to enable outreach scalability
- Run a Sustainability Culture campaign
4. Prepare the organization to tap into sustainable financing mechanisms
Economic predictions post-Covid19 are dire with dropping business sentiment and tougher financial liquidity scenarios. However, ESG funds are bucking the trend and are growing in size. CSPs can pivot their organizations to be ESG-investment ready to tap into this growing alternative funding mechanisms by coupling sustainability data with mainstream financial data.
- Which ESG standards/ratings/funds are we adhering too?
- How do we connect our finance teams to ESG investors/funds?
- Do we have sufficient data to qualify as ESG investable assets?
- Partner with Finance to establish an ESG Funding Funnel
- Extract sustainability data to feed into various ESG funding requirements
5. Secure partnerships to minimize resource and maximize impact
Let’s face it – more often than not, a CSP budget will be amongst the first to be recalibrated in times of economic distress. This void can be filled by engaging and working with various stakeholders (and even competitors) to achieve the common objective.
- Are there government/UN/other agencies who can provide funding support?
- Which external parties that are similar to our sustainability value proposition?
- How can we develop a partnership relationship vs a transactional effort ?
- Run a stress test on your existing budget vs what you want to achieve
- Create a Partnership Opportunity Map
At Global Compact Network Malaysia, we are advocating the #mysdgaction2030 campaign, within it has 6 programs that enable businesses to take the actions above. Be part of achieving a sustainable world through better business by partnering with us.