Top Five Things Businesswomen Need To Know About Sustainability

by Karen Flanders, Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future (WNSF)

It goes without saying what’s most important is going to depend on where the company is in its sustainability “journey”.

Companies just starting out would be doing some existential soul searching, examining who they are and who they want to become; examining the assumptions that exist in the business; getting clear on what they’ve already got in-place. Once they have a destination (B) in mind and a clear picture of the current state (A), they can begin to develop strategies that will move them from “A to B”.

The list below, however, may be more relevant for larger corporations farther along the sustainability path. In this context, the top five key things that WNSF thinks businesswomen need to focus on to be successful in advancing their company’s sustainability agenda include the following:

1) Integrate sustainability in a strategic way into every aspect of the business, reframing the way that it is viewed from an issue to managed to key driver in your company’s growth agenda, driving new innovation, value creation & differentiation.

  • Create a compelling vision
  • Set clear goals
  • Define priorities (prioritize top 1-3 things that your company is best placed to lead on, given its core competencies)

2) Measure the ROI of sustainability to the business by having clear metrics around:

  • risk management
  • cost avoidance
  • revenue growth- imbed in brand strategies and customer value to drive volume and margin
  • employee engagement

3) Develop the right capabilities and culture, looking at:

  • leadership and culture
  • processes and structures (embed into the business planning cycle with business-specific goals and funding)
  • people and skills (expanding the role definitions and building distinctive capabilities)
  • measurement (cascade clear objectives and indicators throughout the business and ensure they are driving high-value work; build sustainability into the personal accountability and objectives of every associate).

4) Communicate! Create a common platform to motivate, integrate and communicate, inspiring participation & amplifying value. Use clear and simple messages-repeat often!

5) Lastly and very importantly, leverage informal networks inside and outside of the company to get things done. WNSF is one such network for business women to network with peers in other companies to share learnings and to make things happen!

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