How can organizations incorporate sustainability into their core business strategy to attain the same level of relevance and influence as other business functions and use it to drive profitability and engagement?
Companies that have not adopted a culture of sustainability are learning that it is rapidly becoming a competitive disadvantage. Studies show that forward-thinking organizations that adopted environmental, social and governance policies in the 1990s have outperformed those that didn't, both in the stock market and in accounting measures.1 Despite this evidence, sustainability is not fully integrated into the decision making processes at many multinational corporations. Corporate sustainability traverses nearly all functions of the organization including HR, Marketing, Finance, Supply Chain, EHS, Governance, Logistics, and Technology. And yet, a majority of top corporate sustainability executives are two degrees removed from their CEO in the corporate hierarchy. There is still a perception that sustainability is a cost center, as opposed to a business imperative.
In the summer of 2013, The Conference Board surveyed over 120 multinational corporations in Europe and the US about their challenges and priorities. A clear majority, 73% of the respondents, indicated that integrating sustainability into their corporate strategy is a top priority for their executive leadership team. In response to these survey results, existing research and feedback from our members, The Conference Board proposes to convene a Research Working Group (RWG) to help organizations incorporate sustainability into their core business strategy to attain the same level of relevance and influence as other business functions. Participating companies will identify how sustainability executives can partner across silos to help drive profitability and innovation, mitigate risks, and increase employee and community stakeholder engagement.
The objective of this Working Group is to bring Sustainability, EHS, CSR and operations professionals together with peers, experts and thought leaders to identify the opportunities to establish a prominent sustainability presence within an organization and beyond, including securing a seat at the C-Suite table. The group will review cutting edge approaches and analyze case-studies of organizations that are tackling this issue. We will also examine those that have deliberately chosen not to implement the CSO model, and yet are very intentional and strategic about their sustainability goals. At GE, for example, the CEO decentralizes sustainability across the management team through ad-hoc incentives.
The Conference Board survey also revealed that only 56% of US respondents (vs. 76% of European) currently have a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) in their organization. Whether a company has formalized the CSO role or not, having the commitment and buy-in of top leadership is critical to the success of corporate sustainability programs, and we will look at how to build the same credibility as a CHRO or CIO. Many organizations are at a turning point in integrating sustainability efforts into their corporate culture. By joining this Working Group, members will develop implementable actions to deepen their internal impact, and thereby reap the positive market and other benefits for their corporations.
The group will investigate the following business themes:
• How can those leading Sustainability efforts in their company raise the prominence of their work to be deeply integrated into the strategy of their organization? What organizational and departmental structures best allow sustainability to have greater impact?
• How can companies drive Sustainability into every corner of their organization by partnering with their employees, vendors and other key stakeholders? How do you build a corporate culture to move beyond “initiatives” to “the way we do business”?
• What lies ahead for successfully assimilated initiatives? How do you keep up in this fast changing environment?
This RWG is eligible for CPE Credits. Contact us for more information.
Earn CPE credits in the Behavioral Ethics field of study
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