It seems the overall reaction to June’s Rio+20 summit has been pretty tepid – with many disappointed that nothing of substance was achieved or committed to apart from a lot more meetings. On the plus side this time around business played a much bigger role. The Business Action for Sustainable Development (BASD) group who were beating the drum to portray business as an ally in sustainable development and demonstrate the willingness to play a key role in the solution.
Some of the key things that came out of the 19th June business day dialogues were:
- Business recoginizes the need for urgent action to get after sustainability challenges and urges government to work with them.
- While progress has been made, we haven’t been able to make the desired impact on a global scale so far – we remain on an unsustainable path.
- The majority of the skills and technology needed to achieve sustainable development at scale already exist – we face an implementation gap.
The message coming out of a lot of the dialogues is that, whatever happens, it’s going to take a new model of business, government, and the third sector working together to really get things done.
But before we can get to that we have to have buy-in within our own companies to putting people and planet at the core of what we do.
These three strategies should be at the top of your wish list if they aren’t already:
- Identify the win-wins – CSR will always remain an add-on if it isn’t integrated into the way we do business and supporting the organizations strategy and growth plans as well as doing good. The best companies build a targeted strategy that finds the sweet spot between your companies core skills and assets, social and environmental need and tangible business opportunity.
- An example of this is Unilever who developed a detergent that needs significantly less water to handwash clothes. They used their skill in product innovation to create a product that address a water scarcity challenge as well as driving innovation and opening up new products and market areas.
- Leverage other people’s strengths – none of these issues can be solved alone so engaging stakeholders is key. It is all about building successful partnerships and leveraging each other’s strengths. A recent Accenture-UN Global Compact survey shows that while 78% of CEOs believe their companies should be engaged in multi-stakeholder partnerships the say-do gap is up to 31%.
- TetraPak teamed up with CARE International to revolutionize the dairy sector in Bangladesh. They linked small scale farmers directly to dairy companies and managed to both double the income of the farmers and increase the milk deliveries to the company by 500%.
- Plan to measure impact – Measuring the impact of your initiatives cannot be an afterthought. Your measurement will only be as good as your planning. Use the outcomes-focused planning toolkit to start by defining what you want to achieve (for reducing carbon emissions or waste this is relatively simple – the social side is harder) and work back from there. Use the return on objectives measurement approach to link communications activities to key behavioral changes.
If you haven’t already you can take our CSR management diagnostic to benchmark your company’s activities on 5 dimensions: create a focused strategy; enable adoption within the business; mobilize employees; engage stakeholders; demonstrate and report on results.
If you have had success in embedding people and planet into how your company does business or in forging productive partnerships, please do get in touch. We would love to learn from and share your lessons learnt.