Being Sustainable: Easy as 1-2-3, then 4, 5, 6 and 7.


An inside look at actually making it happen

Once a company commits to 'sustainability,' then what? While many Business Roundtable members, like DuPont, Alcoa, and GE are leading the way implementing sustainable business practices, how do companies initiate this process if they starting at the beginning?

With pressure for action increasing from shareholders, policymakers and the public, many companies must balance the steep learning curve of implementing sustainable growth with the harsh realities of meeting the bottom line. This is where Business Roundtable is at its best. As an organization of 160 CEOs of leading U.S. companies, we have actively encouraged the cross pollination of ideas on sustainability for many years. And we have the guidance and resources to meet these challenges. For companies, "Doing well, by doing good" does not have to mean doing it alone.

Our "S.E.E. Change" (Social, Environmental, Economic) initiative is just one example of bringing together the enormous resources of the private sector, providing members learn-by-sharing venues, and comparing best practices. It is a platform to assist member companies from the drawing board to the realization of sustainable growth programs.

The following is a roadmap developed by Business Roundtable members to meet these challenges. See the full toolkit at S.E.E. Change's Sustainable Growth Toolkit.

Here is an insider's look at the challenging, yet necessary steps businesses must consider as they endeavor to implement sustainable growth programs:

Step 1: Finding the Right Place to Start

Goal: Establish the right starting place that will assure that sustainability efforts are rooted in the core business and will generate shareholder value.

What does this mean? A company needs to understand its values and how sustainability aligns with its business goals, strategies and operating environment before developing the internal groundwork necessary to implement the plan within the company.

Words are critical - shareholders, employees and stakeholders need to understand what is taking place, why, and how they can gain from these efforts.

Step 2: Opportunities and Risks from Environmental and Social Trends

Goal: Conduct rigorous analysis of the market opportunities and risks a business faces as a result of environmental and social trends.

What this means:

  • How does the company need to think about sustainability?

  • What are the social and environmental trends as market forces that put business value at stake?

  • How do sustainability strategies create value?

  • Identify key issues and trends and engage stakeholders.

Step 3: Sustainability Strategy Development

Goal: Develop robust sustainability strategies that create economic value for customers, employees and shareholders, while also benefiting society and the environment.

How to do this:

  • Establish a framework of strategies that create shareholder and societal value simultaneously;

  • Familiarize team with sustainability strategy frameworks;

  • Integrate the assessment of opportunities and risks from sustainability into strategy;

  • Brainstorm strategic options for further investigation;

  • Refine and test strategic options; and

  • Adopt strategies that combine sustainability goals and business objectives.

Step 4: Goals and Metrics

Goal: Develop and implement goals and metrics that guide, accelerate and deepen the implementation of sustainability strategies.

Step 5: Implementation Plans

Goal: Successfully implement sustainability strategies.

Ingredients for success: Get senior management and employees on board, develop an external communications plan and drive sustainability into business through the planning process and regular reviews. Ensure metrics and data are an integral part of the plans.

Step 6: Overcoming Barriers

Goal: Anticipate, recognize and overcome the typical barriers to successful implementation of sustainable growth initiatives.

Step 7: Cross-Cutting Tool: External Engagement

Goal: Develop the broad capability to effectively understand and collaborate with external stakeholders, including non-commercial entities.

Understanding the steps businesses will take provides an appreciation for the work they are undertaking. No one said it would be easy being green or sustainable, but Business Roundtable believes the return will be worth all the effort.