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.