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4-stage approach to sustainability

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in Leaders & Managers

How you respond to the sustainability trend will affect the fate of your organization. Trouble is, many leaders are flailing.

Take a multistage approach:

Stage 1: Do old things in new ways. Focus on outperforming the competition on regulatory compliance.

Example: 3M’s Pollution Prevention Pays. Started 30 years ago, it had by 2005 reduced 3M pollutants and saved the company more than $1 billion.

Stage 2: Do new things in new ways. Redesign products, processes and systems to optimize efficiency.

Example: DuPont’s “zero waste” commitment.

Stage 3: Transform core business.

Example: Dow’s 2015 Sustainability Goals are expected to yield technology breakthroughs in areas such as solar roof shingles. The traditional core business (commodity chemicals) has shifted.

Stage 4: Create a new business model.

Example: GE’s Jeff Immelt, through an “ecomagination initiative,” is repositioning the company.

— Adapted from “The Sustainability Imperative,” David A. Lubin and Daniel C. Esty, Harvard Business Review.

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