We use the term Journey because organisations don’t ever really achieve true environmental sustainability, but they are able to make progress over time, and in so doing, they reduce their impact, they influence others to do the same and they achieve competitive advantage.
Some companies have started their Journey but don’t know it, or they just don’t credit their initiatives as being green.
These are generally companies which are driven to change by the inherent best practice principles contained in a Green Journey rather than a moral stance towards environmental sustainability.
Not every company need label their activities ‘green’, or even share their successes in this regard; however there are certain companies whose brands are linked to public perception and it is difficult for these companies to turn a blind eye on what is fast becoming the new point of differentiation for customers and stakeholders.
There are three drivers of sustainability for organisations –
– Pressure (compliance with laws and standards),
– Competitive Advantage (leveraging efficiencies and reputation for success) and
– Values (doing the right thing).
Companies can change because of any one or any combination of these drivers and very often these drivers will dictate how the company should present its green journey, if at all.
Companies who are driven mostly by the pressure of compliance should be interested in a Green Journey if they are exposed to any risks that relate to the areas in which they are being forced to comply.
For example, mining and industrial companies who are exposed to labour and environmental risks should be tackling their Journey from a reporting standpoint.
The first tenant of sustainability in this instance – transparency and disclosure – is what stakeholders will be looking for, and providing that the reporting process is authentic and meets with required standards it will in itself form the backbone of the Journey, providing the organisation with the roadmap for its development over time.
As the organisation celebrates the achievement of milestones along the way, so can and should it become more gregarious in the way that it communicates with stakeholders (Example: the current Anglo American media campaign)
Companies who are driven by the economic benefits of a Green Journey are the most likely to benefit from a high profile focus on their successes.
These companies can differentiate themselves from others under green headings that are increasingly emotive and they should ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
Transparency and disclosure are important for these companies too, but an integrated communication strategy that leverages sustainability internally and externally should be a priority. (Example: Woolworths Good Business Journey).
Companies that are hesitating because of a late start or because they are fearful of being positioned by stakeholders as being behind the curve are doing themselves no favours by delaying their entry.
The gap will continue to widen between those that have and haven’t embraced a Green Journey and a humble but committed entry is better in the medium to long term than being conspicuously absent.
Companies that are driven by an inherent desire to do the right thing probably already have a strategy that reflects these values but they may not even use terms like ‘Green Journey’.
These companies believe that environmental sustainability should permeate the business in an integrated way, inseparable from their ‘business as usual’ approach.
Being first or greenest is usually not important, however because their competitors may be leveraging green credentials for advantage, these value driven companies may need to give some thought to reminding their stakeholders about what they stand for in order to manage perceptions – call it what you like. (Example: The Body Shop)
Regardless of what drives companies on their green journeys, if they incorporate a values approach they will be more likely to succeed in an environment where ‘green’ sustainability has become the next big differentiator after price, quality and service.