Step 1: Embracing change is an inside job

22 October 2020

The history of science shows us over and over again that, in order for any species to survive, it needs to be able to adapt to changing environments. The same, of course goes for business. For me, in essence, this is what sustainable business means – how we adapt and position ourselves in order to survive when resources are becoming scarcer by the day and consumers more demanding by the minute. When we think about sustainability, most of us think in terms of green energy or animal welfare. And yet, it is so much more than that.  In this second article in our Sustainability series, we will expand a little on step one of creating a sustainability culture in your organisation.  According to McKinsey & Co, to emotionally connect with your customers, you need to consider that your clients want the following:
  • Individual safety               
  • Security and stability       
  • Convenience and ease of use                                       
  • Emotional bond and feeling of trust
We are herewith assuming that you have already made the decision that you do, indeed, want to emotionally connect with your customers.   In the end, we are all consumers and somehow 2020 has put the proverbial mirror in front of consumers’ conscience, forcing us to take a hard stop and re-think the way we shop, the way we live and the way we do business.  There is no doubt that this consumer consciousness will domino all the way up the supply chain, through to the traders, wholesalers, pack houses, producers and their suppliers. This brings us to Step one; Embracing change in the 10 STEPS TO DEVELOP A CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY. If consumer behaviours are changing, and we know that they are, it would make sense that we need to be intimately aware of these changes and we need to change our businesses accordingly.  To change our business, we need to change the minds behind the business. Fighting these changing markets or stubbornly continuing with the same old style of doing business, products or services could impact negatively on our businesses’ survival. The evidence is historical; Kodak probably being one of the most well-known examples. This is one ‘Kodak moment’ that most of us would prefer not to share!  How can shareholders ensure that their operations are indeed future-fit and embracing this culture of change? A company’s results are largely dependent on the humans behind the business, and more specifically, the specific behaviour of the humans behind the business. Where do we start? The saying goes that the fish rots from the head and therefore, top leadership is the starting block in this humanoid puzzle. We always need to start by having the difficult conversations; 
  1. Do we have the right leaders?                              
  2. If so, what do they need to do more of?                   
  3. What do they need to start doing, and                 
  4. What do they need to stop doing?
Honest and frank answers to these questions can be facilitated by a strong Leadership Consultant who will be unbiased and professional in their recommendations. Sometimes internal HR or line management’s opinions can be clouded by historical factors and internal loyalties, which could hide the real issues or downplay specific gaps in your talent map. However, if you do make use of an outside Consultant, ensure the Consultant is intimately in tune with the vision that needs to be achieved, so that he/she can design the performance puzzles accordingly. Your Consultant will need buy-in at board level and support from key decision-makers in the business to be able to achieve a good outcome.   Sustainability in human capital means exactly that – you need leaders and staff who can drive your business with a long term view, doing what matters today to ensure success, not only for today but also tomorrow.  Looking at the triple bottom line and understanding the weighting of each factor and its place in the larger environment that it operates in, is key. The alternative means that your company could end up with its moment in the sun interrupted by the undeniable forces of change and that could make it a very short (Kodak) moment, indeed.

Written by Leonie Pentz, VP Sustainability