The Sustainable Business Handbook
eBook - ePub

The Sustainable Business Handbook

A Guide to Becoming More Innovative, Resilient and Successful

David Grayson, Chris Coulter, Mark Lee

  1. English
  2. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  3. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Sustainable Business Handbook

A Guide to Becoming More Innovative, Resilient and Successful

David Grayson, Chris Coulter, Mark Lee

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Table of contents

About This Book

SHORTLISTED: Project Syndicate 2023 - Sustainability Book Award
WINNER: Business Book Awards 2023 - Change & Sustainability Category The case for business sustainability has already been made; organizations can no longer ignore the issue when climate change affects supply chains and customer expectations require them to take action. It has also been proven that businesses operating sustainably drive innovation, build brand value and are more profitable. It is therefore time to shift the conversation from the 'why' of business sustainability to the 'how'. The Sustainable Business Handbook is a practical 'how-to' guide which aims to demystify jargon and provide practical tools and tips for busy managers. Rather than preaching the importance of sustainability, it cuts straight to how businesses can become more resilient and successful in the long term by becoming more sustainable.This indispensable book is based around twenty top tips for transforming your business and is interspersed with a range of individual profiles and case studies of organizations successfully embracing sustainability. With guidance on defining your organizational purpose, engaging stakeholders and creating the right culture, The Sustainable Business Handbook outlines how to shift Corporate Responsibility from being a bolt-on to business operations to being a source of innovation and new business, as well as societal good.

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Part One

Getting started



What is it?

In the span of just a few years, purpose has galvanized the world’s largest investor, America’s largest corporate association and the planet’s premium annual gathering of influencers, along with thousands of companies worldwide.
In 2018, BlackRock’s CEO, Larry Fink, titled his Annual Letter to CEOs ‘A Sense of Purpose’. In it, the founder and leader of the world’s largest institutional investor asked companies to embrace the notion of having a long-term strategy bigger than simply making a profit.1
In 2019, the Business Roundtable (BR), a Washington-based business lobby organization, adopted a new ‘Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation’ expressing signatories’ ‘fundamental commitment to all stakeholders’, who they defined as customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders, which many interpreted as a powerful boost to the concept of stakeholder capitalism.2 Nearly 200 of the largest companies in the United States signed on to this revised statement of purpose but not without controversy (some have charged the Business Roundtable with purpose washing – that is, not matching rhetoric with action).3
In 2020, the World Economic Forum (WEF) launched The Davos Manifesto: The universal purpose of a company in the fourth industrial revolution, which states that ‘The purpose of a company is to engage all its stakeholders in shared and sustainable value creation.’4
Defining an organization’s purpose is a good place to begin the sustainability journey. By purpose, we mean why a company exists – the authentic, inspiring and practical expression of how it can make the world better through its business success (see Figure 1.1).
Figure 1.1 Visualizing purpose
A Venn diagram depicts visualizing purpose. The two intersecting circles represent your business solutions and how you make the world better. The intersection represents purpose.
Colin Mayer of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford defines corporate purpose as producing ‘profitable solutions to the problems of people and planet and not to profit from producing problems for people or planet’.5
Purpose as a key element for business is not new; it has been part of many corporate cultures for decades, even centuries in some cases. For instance, Lord Lever founded Unilever in 1885 with a societal purpose expressed as follows: ‘To make hygiene commonplace’. What is different now is that purpose has evolved an explicit connection to sustainability, helping express a company’s commitment to society and the environment. Many leading companies today have updated their purpose to reflect this, while others have created new statements. To again use the Unilever example, in 2010 the company refreshed Lord Lever’s original purpose, evolving it to ‘To make sustainable living commonplace’.
Indeed, many companies – both incumbents and start-ups – have formalized their purpose in ways that provide a North Star for how the enterprise can be successful in the marketplace and contribute to a better future.
Purpose applies not just to companies, but also to brands. Brands with purpose have become an important pursuit for many corporate brand houses including Clorox, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt, SC Johnson, Unilever and others.
Some examples of corporate purpose from across the world are outlined in the table below.
Table 1.1 Examples of corporate purpose around the world
Skip table
To help millions of people live healthier, longer, better lives.
To improve the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.
To create a better everyday life for the many people.
We’ve made humanity’s innate desire to Rise our driving purpose. We challenge conventional thinking and innovatively use our resources to drive positive change in the lives of our stakeholders and communities across the world, to enable them to Rise.
Maple Leaf Foods
To raise the good in food.
Natura &Co
To nurture beauty and relationships for a better way of living and doing business.
Unlocking the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for future generations to come.
To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
Old Mutual
Our purpose is to help our customers thrive by enabling them to achieve their lifetime financial goals, while investing their funds in ways that will create a positive future for them, their families, their communities and broader society.
We’re in business to save our home planet.
Renewing life inspired by trees.
To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.
Tiger Brands
We nourish and nurture more lives every day.
To make sustainable living commonplace.
To save people money and help them live better.

Why it matters

Purpose has always been an important asset for companies, and it has become more so as sustainability has become a recognized value driver for business. Purpose provides a framework for a company’s actions and its approach to sustainability. The most effective purpose is often one that simply and authentically defines the company’s commitment to sustainability, and the most effective sustainability strategy is one that operationalizes the company’s purpose.
Purpose matters to business in a number of fundamental ways:
  • It clarifies a company’s business focus and coordinates its actions in a unifying way.
  • It helps integrate sustainability and ethics into a company’s decisions and actions.
  • It creates a North Star that attracts and retains talent.
  • It inspires employees to see greater meaning in their day-to-day work.
  • It inspires and motivates customers, investors, governments, civil society, suppliers and communities to support and contribute to the company’s success and the positive impact on people and planet envisaged by the purpose.
  • It allows a company to differentiate itself in the marketplace with an authentic narrative that goes beyond the functional and speaks to how it cares about people and planet, which provides a platform for storytelling and engagement.
  • It helps guide decision-making acr...

Table of contents

  1. List of figures and tables
  2. About the authors
  3. Foreword by Pia Heidenmark Cook
  4. Acknowledgements
  5. List of abbreviations
  6. Introduction
  7. Part One Getting started
  8. 01 Purpose
  9. 02 Materiality
  10. 03 Business case
  11. Part Two Building it up
  12. 04 Strategy
  13. 05 Operationalizing
  14. 06 Culture
  15. 07 Leadership
  16. 08 Reporting
  17. 09 Governance
  18. Part Three Taking it to the world
  19. 10 Engagement
  20. 11 Communications
  21. 12 Partnering
  22. 13 Advocacy
  23. Conclusion
  24. Action checklist
  25. Glossary / Jargon buster
  26. Keeping up to date on sustainable business
  27. Index