Top 5 reasons why Sustainability strategies fail

Sustainability Camp

Let’s say, as a Sustainability Manager in a company, you’ve managed to convince the senior leadership to go ahead with some sustainability strategies that can immediately be employed within the existing operating  framework of the company.

Where would you begin? Will you look at changing the bulbs to CFL’s? Would you look at reducing the power consumption of the monitors? Or would you look at abolishing single side printing? Or will you ask your people to start using public transport?

These are nice thoughts to have – noble ones, since they help the cause. You go out all excited and start working towards them and you realize that there’s a brick wall – of attitudes and notions that you alone can’t bring down. And your most altruistic plans or your smart sustainability strategies fail.

Here are top 5 reasons why the noblest of sustainability strategies fail:

Communications strategy

Not communicating or improper communication to all stakeholders both internally (employees)  and externally (suppliers,  key accounts, and anyone who cares to listen) is one of the most important reason that sustainability strategies fail.

For a company that is just starting on sustainability, a more low key approach (under promise over deliver) will be more appropriate than announcing all out or not announcing at all.

Also  read 6 ways to Communicate Sustainability Strategies effectively

Stimulating demand through proper education

By inviting key customers, decision makers and top influencers in the industry to daylong seminars on your sustainability agenda – be it on Design for Environment, Green Building, product innovation or operational changes – this will not only educate the people who matter, but also puts you in a position to influence the policies.

Culture change

This is “the” reason of why most sustainability strategies fail. Top leadership simply fail to bring a change in culture and environmental values that it wants to stand for.

Incorporating those values in all decision making and activities require a strong buy in from the employees or else they may feel betrayed. On the flip side, if this is done properly, these strategies will take a life of their own as they will be driven from bottom-up.

Spreading yourself too thin

Saying No to lucrative deals is counter business but pro sustainability. By not keeping yourself focused on your core strengths and spreading your self too thin, will eventually stretch your resources to be put in those deals – which potentially may be damaging to your overarching sustainability strategy

Measurement metric

Choosing the right metric for measuring success of a sustainability strategy is often tricky. Most managers look at the payback and rate of return to set goals and targets. Don’t.

Sustainability initiatives don’t have immediate tangible gains. Enthusiasm and retention of employees, repeat customers, its image in the media, suppliers greening themselves – these will be the correct ways to measure the success.

What other reasons do you think cause sustainability strategies to fail? Have you ever encountered any one of these?

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