Recipe for success

Successfully aligning sustainability with your business strategy cannot be achieved overnight. Nor is there an instant formula or a standard approach. Yet, through our work with both sustainability frontrunners and starters, we were able to identify some best practices.  

These best practices can be seen as core ingredients of the recipe for success. Of course there is more to it, and most front runners brought in external expertise and support to fast track the process. But here are some universal best practices: 

  • Start light green  Every company that successfully embraced sustainability as a core driver for business success, started very focused. They picked a theme or topic that made sense from their capabilities, mission and position. From this ‘light green’ start they manage to expand as soon as the Return on Sustainability is apparent, thus gradually becoming a ‘darker shade of green’. 
  • Commit as leaders  A major predictor of future success is the leaderships commitment to become a sustainable business. As there are bound to be some setbacks along this journey, or there appear to be ‘shortcuts’ that may seem appealing, but are not aligned with your plan and thus will decrease the Return on Sustainability. At moments like these, it is up to the company’s leadership to stay the course and keep the organization motivated. 
  • Maintain the balance – Being a ‘more sustainable’ option is only one of the 3 most important aspects behind the success of any businessThe challenge is to balance your clients three focus points: Cost + Quality + Sustainability. Cost and quality need to be at par as a minimum, for sustainability to be a differentiator. Customers want the best value for money and require great service. If you are able to provide that, then sustainability becomes a differentiator. And even better: sustainability as a core strategic driver, can deliver superior quality and cost savings for clients. 
  • Measure & share progress – the only way to know if you are getting the result you hoped for, is by measuring the progress. Make sure to measure what matters clearly and transparently and incorporate these metrics into KPIs for leadership. When it comes to communicating the progress: transparency is key. Share what you are aiming for and what you have achieved, but also share what is not working yet (and what you plan to do to overcome that problem). This transparency is typical for the most successful organizations. It creates understanding and support, both internally and externally.  
  • Position yourself differently – Focus on how you position your product or service: even a ‘boring’ product in a very traditional industry can be positioned in such a way that others want it. Even if the product itself is not innovative, the positioning can still be very innovative and successful. And for your (more) sustainable offer to be a success, you need to position is accordingly – just adding a sticker or label is unfortunately not enough. 
  • Partner up – To create a lasting competitive advantage, it is helpful to establish partnerships beyond the traditional value chain. Whether it is with universities, researchers, NGO’s, or organizations with similar challenges in adjacent sectors; sharing insights and sometimes even resources result in efficiency gains. And at times even new business opportunities.   

Have a look at our cases to see real life examples of these ‘ingredients for success’. And learn what it has brought those companies.