Creating business continuity
Every successful company today finds itself somewhere on the road to creating more sustainable value. But after years of conceptualising and exploring transformation approaches, for many, the essence of sustainability has vanished along the process.
As a small refresher: becoming a sustainable company primarily refers to developing a company's talent for continuity. To be sustainable, enterprises need to be able to continue what they are doing on the long term, without harming future generations. As business activities have an economic, environmental, and social dimension, it means that companies are fully aware of their influence on society and can adapt themselves to contribute to positive change.
Sustainable companies not only seek financial profit for their investors but create value in a balanced way, respecting all populations in their business ecosystem. They make sure they function while taking care about customers, employees, suppliers, business partners and the natural environment. Sustainable companies pursue value for all relevant stakeholders.
There are a billion ways to become a more sustainable, thriving, and futureproof enterprise. Whatever Sustainable Development Goals you are trying to achieve, whether your company is ESG-proof or not, whether you are applying for B-Corp certification or the Impact Investment-label: for each company that itinerary is unique, but there is only one Polestar, and that is pursuing long term value.
Today, the purpose of a corporation is to conduct a lawful, ethical, profitable and sustainable business in order to ensure its success and grow its value over the long term.
Finding a sustainable purpose that suits your company implies reinventing it continuously. To discover the right thing to do, enterprises need to investigate what sustainability means for them as an existential value, how its fits in the company vision, strategy and mission. Copy-pasting from another business won't work. To build a genuine business narrative around sustainability, apart from imagining new potential futures, this involves the willingness to get to know your stakeholders. For whom and by whom are you doing it? Who matters most? Once you know the parties that are vital to your business ecosystem, you can start to reorganise.
Taking sustainability to the next level
The challenge is to take sustainability to the next level and move it from a side story to the heart of your enterprise. What if sustainable thinking and acting, instead of just a distraction of your core business — as it still is in many companies today — were a conscious leadership choice, a shared business priority? What if sustainability became a genuine internal source of transformation, creating a ripple effect of change? What if sustainability would be at the root of every business activity to make value creation processes more meaningful and impactful?
From innovation to operations, from identification to customer care, to keep on creating value, to secure repeat business, companies must act on several fronts simultaneously. System thinking will unlock many blocked doors and uncover hidden avenues to new ways of working that benefit stakeholders in multiple ways. This requires a holistic, overarching view.
Big picture thinking
Just as citizens must understand that they are not only part of a country, but also a continent and a planet to be moved to action and responsibility, enterprises must understand that they are part of a community to realise sustainable products and services. It is a leader's task to make everyone in the business community aware of this interdependency.
To rethink value creation processes at ecosystem level, system thinking and 'big picture thinking' are required: you must be able to zoom out and see the macro picture. Such an open, broad perspective has many advantages. You can see beyond proverbial walls and transcend business units. Patterns and connections become apparent that were invisible at a lower level. In the heat of the moment, larger, overarching goals tend to disappear from the radar. A bird's eye view helps to keep the end goal in mind, even when you are working step by step.
By always keeping the entire business network in mind, you can better distinguish between main and secondary issues. Because you see the entire system in which you operate, you know the direct effects, but also the indirect impact of your activities. In the long run, this will enable you to identify side issues that may not seem to be important today but will become so in the future and help your company to last in time.
Adopting this philosophy , companies can not only secure their place in the business landscape but also make a lasting impact on society, embracing sustainability as a driving force behind their continued success and contribution to a better future. Ultimately, trust, whether among customers, employees or in society, is nurtured by a commitment to long-term value creation.