Demand for sustainable ways of living is rocketing. As per a Deloitte Survey Climate change is a top three concern for millennials and Generation Z (1995-2003), second only to cost of living. In a 2022 survey by Simon Kucher, 24% of consumers saw themselves as the most important actor in stopping the climate crisis, followed by companies (23%) and international political actors (21%). Sustainability encompasses a wide range of environmental, social, and economic factors. While various sectors have made efforts to implement sustainability measures, the concept of sustainability cannot thrive in isolation.
  • Problems such as climate change, resource depletion, pollution, and loss of biodiversity are intricately connected and often result from overlapping causes. the emission of greenhouse gases from industries affects not only the climate but also the quality of the air and water.
  • Industries are not standalone entities; they are intertwined through supply chains, resource sharing, and consumer behaviour. A sustainable initiative in one industry can lead to positive outcomes in others. A shift toward renewable energy sources benefits not only the energy sector but also reduces the carbon footprint of manufacturing and transportation
  • Government policies and regulations play a crucial role in shaping sustainable practices and a fragmented approach to policy-making, where regulations are tailored to specific industries without considering broader implications, can lead to unintended consequences. For instance, promoting biofuel production to reduce carbon emissions from transportation might inadvertently lead to deforestation if not coupled with sustainable land use policies.
  • Consumers are becoming increasingly conscious of the environmental and ethical aspects of the products and services they choose. 93% of consumers maintained or increased their sustainability purchases in 2022 – even as cost of living increased around the world. (IRi Worldwide). When sustainability standards vary between industries, it is challenging for a consumer to make informed choices and meaningful decisions
According to Forbes, while 90% of business executives believe in the importance of sustainability, only about 60% of their companies have a sustainability strategy. Based on a survey of over 300 large companies engaged in sustainability efforts, Bain & Company found that 98% of sustainability initiatives fail. Businesses today struggle to fully integrate sustainable practices into their operations. The departmental silos, or isolated functional units within an organization, is hindering the holistic implementation of sustainability initiatives. With Regulatory requirements acting as catalysts by prompting organizations to find new and more sustainable ways of conducting business, it has become imperative to address these issues.
  • In organizations with strong departmental silos, priorities can sometimes conflict. For example, the sales team might be primarily focused on short-term revenue growth, while the sustainability team advocates for long-term environmental responsibility.
  • Resource allocation is a critical aspect of sustainability initiatives. Silos can lead to unequal distribution of resources, with some departments receiving more support for sustainability efforts than others.
To truly embed sustainable practices into an organization’s DNA, it’s imperative to break down barriers and promote cross-functional collaboration. By fostering open communication, aligning priorities, and establishing integrated sustainability teams, businesses can overcome the challenges posed by departmental silos.
  • Senior Management must align sustainability goals with broader business objectives, to help avoid potential conflicts between sustainability and financial goals.
  • Business Leaders must champion the integration of sustainability across all functions and create an environment where employees feel empowered to contribute their insights and expertise towards shared sustainability goals
  • L&D plays a critical role in developing sustainability leadership capabilities within the organization. This includes providing training and coaching to leaders on sustainability principles, integrating sustainability into leadership competency frameworks, and empowering leaders to drive sustainability initiatives and embed them in their teams and departments.
  • Sustainability Officers can foster external partnerships with sustainability-focused organizations, academic institutions, or industry associations to access relevant resources, expertise, and research. By collaborating with external stakeholders, they can stay updated on emerging sustainability trends, leverage best practices, and incorporate external perspectives into their sustainability initiatives.
  • Company Secretaries must ensure accurate and transparent reporting of sustainability metrics, showcasing the organization’s progress toward its goals. In order to foster trust among stakeholders and position the organization as a responsible corporate citizen.
  • CFOs need to allocate funds to sustainability initiatives, ensuring they receive the necessary resources to succeed. This includes investments in renewable energy, eco-friendly technologies, and employee training for sustainable practices. By incorporating sustainability metrics into financial analysis, the CFO can evaluate the long-term financial implications of sustainability initiatives, considering factors like cost savings, risk reduction, and revenue growth. McKinsey study suggests that, by reducing resource costs, a company can improve operating profits by up to 60%.
  • CIOs and CTOs are required to be at the forefront of the technological revolution that is shaping sustainability efforts across industries. Not only can they practice IT in a sustainable manner but also enable sustainability through leveraging of digital tools and solutions,
  • Procurement teams play a critical role in achieving supply chain transparency. They must evaluate potential suppliers based on their environmental and social practices to ensure alignment with sustainability standards before entering into partnerships. As per Deloitte Report, 46% companies have begun requiring business partners across their supply chain/value chain to meet specific sustainability criteria.
  • Human Capital teams must adopt the role of the change drivers by integrating sustainability in employee engagement, Org culture, talent management and undertaking ethical practices.
As the world grapples with the urgent need for sustainable practices, it is evident that a siloed approach will not suffice. The challenges we face are multifaceted and interconnected, requiring a comprehensive and collaborative response. By breaking down barriers between industries, disciplines, and stakeholders, we can foster a more integrated approach to sustainability that yields lasting results. Embracing sustainability as a shared responsibility will enable us to build a more resilient, equitable, and thriving future.
Author: Dr. Surabhi Prakash