Making sustainability goals a success strategy

Julian Hill-Landolt, Vision 2050 director at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, explains how businesses can implement transformational sustainability strategies to ensure future resilience

Rebecca Gibson
Rebecca Gibson
By Rebecca Gibson on 17 December 2021
Making sustainability goals a success strategy

Why is sustainability important for businesses? 

At its core, sustainability is about managing an organisation’s long-term success, which depends on having thriving societies to trade with and a healthy planet to exist on. It’s getting harder to ignore the challenges we face – floods, fires, storms, droughts, habitat destruction, floating garbage patches and mounting social unrest are increasingly hitting news feeds and bottom lines. The past decade has been very volatile for business, with challenges such as digital disruption, political unpredictability and Covid-19 forcing organisations to manage their strategies in the absence of a reliable status quo. Sustainability helps businesses to understand themselves better – what’s going on with their supply chains, operations and customers – enabling them to create stability in volatile circumstances. And finally, a lot of time and effort has been put into changing how we think about sustainability; governments, companies, investors and even individuals are increasingly rallying to make societies sustainable. 

Can you outline the key challenges businesses face when introducing sustainability strategies?  

Any change is hard and sustainability strategies demand disruption of business as usual. However, to create a world in which over nine billion people live well within planetary boundaries, we need to transform everything: energy, mobility, housing, food, products, and more. Businesses have to drive that transformation while remaining profitable, so there’s a critical balancing act between innovation, investment and managing today’s revenues, which will be the lifeblood of future change.

What should be the key tenets of every sustainability strategy?  

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development’s Vision 2050: Time to Transform outlines three key tenets for transformational sustainability strategies. Organisations need a shared vision that factors in the challenges they need to address and how they link to long-term success. They also need a systems approach to business strategy that considers the future operating landscape, risks to resilience, and the collaborations that stability and success will depend on. Finally, successful sustainability strategies will depend on business ‘mindset shifts’ around the purpose and role of a business, what it means to be resilient and how they operate regeneratively, all for the long term. 

How can digital technologies help organisations to implement sustainability strategies? 

Implemented well, digital technology can bring people together, enhance transparency and efficiency, and drive access to opportunity. It can help businesses improve access to basic social services, such as education, healthcare and finance. They can also embed sustainability by changing norms within business and management processes.  

This article was originally published in the Autumn 2021 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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