CEO, Simply Sustainable
In order to navigate the demands of new regulation and provide truly sustainable solutions, companies and brands are increasingly finding that a transformational sustainability strategy is necessary.
“A credible sustainability strategy will help steer your company through challenging times and both mitigate the risks and capitalise on the opportunities that lie ahead. However, to be effective, it must be robust enough to withstand the scrutiny of your most demanding stakeholders and ambitious enough to drive meaningful, demonstrable change,” says Nicola Stopps, CEO of Simply Sustainable.
Over the past decade, the company has developed corporate sustainability strategies for some of the biggest brands in the world. Stopps has therefore outlined the seven hallmarks of a successful sustainability strategy.
1. The strategy is unique to your business
“Any good sustainability strategy should be unique to the business and brand it belongs to, whilst ensuring it is closely in step with the commercial strategy as well,” Stopps says.
2. Stakeholders are listened to
A company must actively and routinely listen to stakeholders to ensure it is alert and responsive to evolving attitudes and beliefs. “When used correctly, materiality can be a powerful listening tool allowing companies to move from incremental to transformative approaches to corporate sustainability,” she says.
3. Commercial risks and opportunities are aligned
All relevant sustainability risks and opportunities should be formally assessed, says Stopps. “A robust sustainability strategy will highlight where values, policies, and practices may be causing negative externalities and potentially creating reputational risk.”
Truly transformational objectives and goals should replace targets for year-on-year improvement.
4. The strategy is suitably ambitious
All goals must be proportionate to the scale of the problem, the company’s impacts, and the expectations of key stakeholders.
5. The strategy is transformational
Truly transformational objectives and goals should replace targets for year-on-year improvement. “Incremental targets are no longer enough to demonstrate a serious strategic commitment to sustainability. Transformation requires boards to be comfortable with complexity and uncertainty, and invest in roadmaps that will move the company closer to its vision,” she continues.
6. The strategy meets global standards
Stopps explains: “Standards are becoming increasingly important as a company’s sustainability record, and the quality of their disclosures come under greater scrutiny from investors keen to compare progress between companies and sectors.”
7. The strategy is action-oriented
A robust sustainability strategy should be actionable and measured by the delivery of tangible results.
“Good sustainability strategies are focused, mobilise stakeholders to act and engage in ways that move the company forward, create momentum and, most importantly, deliver results,” Stopps concludes.