How do you integrate sustainability into all that you do?
In the early days of ESG, sustainability was more about bolting initiatives onto business processes rather than fully integrating them. Organisations were advised to implement various measures from reducing reliance on paper to upgrading roof insulation, to positioning recycling bins where they’d be more visible.
We have come a long way since then. Today, it is recognised that achieving sustainability demands sustainable practice be amalgamated into all areas of a business rather than added on here and there. However, developing a clear strategy to achieve this remains elusive for many leadership teams.
Here, we provide some steps on how it can be done.
Education, implementation, benchmarking.
Arguably, the single most important step for ensuring sustainability can be integrated into all that you do is properly educating the workforce. Employees need to understand this issue is no longer a fad to keep customers happy, but a seismic shift in working practices that can provide very real, long-term advantages to the business, the regions it operates in, and, indeed, the planet.
Nurturing this company-wide understanding requires that sustainability is factored into every venture from the development of new products and services to procurement methodologies. Calculating how barriers to sustainability can be broken down must leverage as much importance as identifying them in the first place.
Once this is a routine practice, benchmarking becomes essential. Defining KPIs will clarify where the areas of most urgent intervention are needed to monitor progress. To help with this, one of the projects we are working on at the moment at R2 Factory is using natural language processing (NLP) to benchmark sustainability initiatives against organisations operating in similar fields.
Reward good behaviours
Implementing a sustainability framework is one thing; getting stakeholders to stick to it is quite another. It is crucial that frameworks inspire real workforce buy-in and this can’t happen effectively if it is punitive in nature.
Using strong governance models, business leaders need to incentivise good behaviours throughout their organisation and supply chain. A powerful way of doing this is using AI and machine learning models to identify the ‘stars’ across a supply chain and encourage the others to step up to the plate.
Likewise, by deepening collaborative endeavours, it is possible to share best practice and overcome common obstacles between your upstream and downstream suppliers, as happened in one of our recent residency programmes.
And, though punitive actions should be kept to a minimum, suppliers will begin to see that an ambivalence towards sustainability could see them replaced by other, more focused competitors.
“We used data-mining and computer-vision techniques to identify enormous savings in recyclable waste products, which reduced carbon emissions”
Sustainability and digital transformation
Most businesses today have undergone some form of digital transformation, the next step is to apply this to sustainability programmes thereby ensuring targets are viable, effective, and can be accurately measured.
Introducing digital tools that track elements like the carbon footprint and the impact of wastage produces rich datasets that can then be used to demonstrate achievements to customers, shareholders, potential investors, and suppliers. We had a breakthrough a couple of years ago when we used data-mining and computer-vision techniques to identify enormous savings in recyclable waste products, which reduced carbon emissions across supply chains by 40% at Rolls-Royce.
An ability to demonstrate real progress not only greatly enhances brand status but, perhaps more importantly, it allows everyone connected with the business to feel that they are part of something that really is helping to make the world a better place. The boost to morale and productivity this delivers should not be underestimated.