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The Challenge of Sustainability in Business

This is the summary of our 5-piece series that elaborated on different perspectives of creating strategic impact.

The goal behind implementing sustainability in business is to contribute and give back to the society they affect and on which they depend at the same time. This is especially true for larger corporations, as they are increasingly aware of the potential repercussions that the exploitation of finite resources will entail.

On the other side, companies that have deployed sustainability in their core identity pursue the ideal of not affecting society negatively at all (i.e. movements such as zero waste and cradle-to-cradle). Oftentimes, these companies face profitability issues because their product needs to sustain an organization as well as the mission behind it.

Still, in both cases, for larger corporations and smaller businesses, the most challenging questions remain: how can they create shared values — meaning creating economic value in ways that also create value for society? What is the best way to align goals of profit, people and planet, when 9 times out of 10, the interests of profit actually conflict with the interests of people and planet? How do we cope with these questions when it is unlikely we will change the system that inherently depends on economic growth?

In our last 4 posts we looked for answers and discussed ideas and options on how to create strategic impact:

  1. It begins with acknowledging that it all starts with us, the consumer. When we ask ourselves how we create the biggest impact, the answer is having impact on people who are not yet conscious. Good but also scary (und very uncomforting): our impact is measurable! We all can calculate the difference we make, when we decide to limit our consumption of products, to travel less and to consume local products. One KPI is the amount of greenhouse gas emission we emit.
  2. Speaking of the ultimate long-term strategy and coming back to the former statement that it is unlikely we can change the system. We need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. This calls for a redefinition of “profit” overall. Any ideas?
  3. There is also a more quiet and passive side of creating meaningful impact. We tend to associate effective impact with loud activism that points fingers at others. But practicing change and awareness towards the planet can equally create impact as long as we focus on putting attitude into action. Impact that unfolds itself.
  4. Compound impact is a strategy that can and should be applied by smaller businesses to compete with conventional businesses in the same industry. Role model for this strategy are social and environmental NGOs that mastered the art of tackling the causes of problems instead of the effect of problems.

These are just a few thoughts — approaches and starting points we should keep in mind when we want to create impact through business.

From this past research a more personal question has evolved. Where is our company — BLANKnarrative — positioning itself amidst the system? Where are we creating strategic impact?

Given our own understanding of changing and evolving, for now, we recognize the realistic perspective of our economy to stay.

This is why we are convinced that we have the biggest impact when we are doing what we can do best: helping social and sustainable businesses to create shared values, maintaining the triple bottom line — people, planet, profit — and growing their impact through sustainable business development.