Sustainability as a core value
Organizations have lot of spaces for chiefs in their charts. Whether it's chief executive officer (CEO), chief financial officer (CFO), chief operating officer (COO), or even chief technology officer (CTO) – to indicate positions of senior responsibility for large areas the organizations' day-to-day and strategic operations. The trend is not changing yet as there are not many chief sustainability officers (CSOs) out. For many organizations, sustainability is seen as being part of other strategic responsibilities such as compliance, or environmental health and safety, corporate affairs, marketing, community relations, which precludes the creation of an entirely separate division.
Many companies see no need to support sustainability initiatives with a formal organizational structure or operational metrics. The compliance department can make sure that the company isn't breaking any rules, and marketing can make sure that we are promoting all of our good community efforts in the name of sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR). However, sustainability and CSR is about exceeding what is required by law and going beyond ordinary compliance.
Customers, partners and investors are no longer willing to settle for PR messages and advertising slogans. They now expect to see firm commitments, disclosures and sustainability reports as to how the company is meeting those commitments. It may make sense for your supply chain manager to monitor better use of recyclable packaging, and for your operations manager to monitor energy and water usage, but these are internal procedures and do not cover the full spectrum of sustainability topics, like social value created, investment in local community or stakeholder engagement. If your company plans to incorporate sustainable business practices as a core value, it should also embrace the accountability of a public commitment to that value.
Of course, putting a CSO in place in a small organization may seeM like you're trying to run before you can walk, but there is a clear path to follow. Compliance is a great place to start. The next step will be to move beyond basic compliance into cost efficiency in order to realize financial savings while incorporating greater sustainability. This will enable brand differentiation and identification of business opportunities. To gain a strategic advantage though, would involve a formal transition to sustainability as a core value. Products and services that you offer to your customers need to truly reflect your commitment. This typically involves innovation as you start to redesign existing products, services, management and engagement methodologies in addition to expanding your offerings. At this point, you may be ready to post that CSO vacancy. While going through the entrepreneurship institutes in India and especially in our state of Jammu and Kashmir, there is not even any faculty or a professional involved in teaching or training sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Now A million dollar question is that what such entrepreneurship institutes are teaching to new entrepreneurs, and how will be the sustainability ensured in long run. Most of the new budding entrepreneurs are ignorant about sustainability and environmental concepts and they hardly think or imagine about sustainable manufacturing. The need of the hour is to develop sustainability as a core value of manufacturing activity and policies and organizational structures should be developed accordingly. Industrial policies shall be very much emphasizing on sustainability.
The author is an empaneled expert from IRCA