A research paper surveyed in year 2015, the importance of brands on their day to day and noticed that the world would not care if 77% of brands disappeared tomorrow (that figure is 92 percent in case of USA) and they believe that only 5 % brands make a meaningful difference in people lives. Did you ever thought of What is that which separates the brand which has gained importance over those which could not? On the same lines another paper quotes that today approximately 1700 companies worldwide have been operating for more than 150 years. Of these 1700 companies, 250 have been in operation for more than 400 years. The fact that they survived so long demonstrates their strategic success. However, it is not easy being a sustainable company since the short-term goals overshadow long term commitments. long term success requires discipline and a strong and persistent mindset in front of the many market instabilities and uncertainties, such as the recent financial crisis of the last decades or the current digital revolution. Though initiatives such as those we are witnessing now a days, like linking executive’s compensation to diversity, sustainability metrics will help in pushing the companies towards long term sustainability goals. It is not without challenges as many times sustainability initiatives are long term in nature and require multi year plans and strategies to achieve and to witness a visible change in the direction it requires persistent involvement from companies, their employees alike.
Last week I was reading a book on “Hot Seat by Jeff Immelt, the former CEO of GE. It was a fascinating book with many tales on Jeff’s tenure at GE. Besides many stories I would like to refer the ones linked with Sustainability like those of 1. Hudson rivers cleanup 2. Compressor CFC leaks episode and Finally 3. Ecomagination. All strong organizations have strong leaders; however, it needs more than mere leadership to achieve the type of success Jeff has achieved during his tenure when it comes to sustainability. I do not want to get into the controversial topic who is responsible for current GE position or share price drop over years, that is not my areas of research. Jeff had the courage to stand up and change the things head on. I liked the book and recommended all to read that as well.
Now coming back to the topic of Sustainability few days back I have gone through a blog on “Bad sustainability writing is everywhere” by Sustainability Brands, where they commented the percolation of ineffective communications is holding sustainability back. They noticed that brands are ignoring the uniqueness when it comes to sustainability with majority of writings consisting of vagueness. Even what is surprising in their research was most sustainability writing, one could swap one brand name for another and not be able to tell the difference. One of the main reasons for such attitude towards sustainability communications is that organizational alignment of sustainability. For majority of companies when it comes to sustainability it comes as a volunteer program and charitable gift and not as a revenue driver. Successful organizations embed sustainability into their organizational strategy as a with built in component rather than as a bolt on piece. Sustainability and social responsibility are not instrumenting to boost reputation for the wrong doings done elsewhere in the business operations nor the philanthropic endeavors.
The major reason whey we witness the issues in sustainability is something to do with they we way we traditionally tackle problems. We tend to linearly break down the issue and identify the problems and tend to fix them, i.e., linear way of handling the problems. When it comes to sustainability such thinking aims at developing initiatives like offsetting the emissions in a project, building schools, sending goods to poorer economies etc. Not to undermine the activities mentioned above, the sustainability initiatives need altogether different way of handling that is to term the systems view of handling the problem, which is picking up speeds in recent years a shift from doing things better toward holistic systems of doing better things. I remember couple of famous anecdotes of linear thinking, the cobra Story, the rat story of Vietnam pig story, and Hoy No Circula – no plying of vehicles with last digits in Mexico
In this podcast I would like to discuss on the same topic and list out my list of sustainability strategies for next generation.
- Identification of priority items and sustainability challenges to be tackled.
- Business model innovation for competitive advantage
- Platform based operations and servicitization initiatives for managing business.
- Self-regulated environment for competitive advantage