How Do Business Leaders Perceive sustainability?

How Do Business Leaders Perceive sustainability?


Last week, I had the opportunity to facilitate a brainstorming session in scope of the Pioneers Into Practice program, run by Climate-KIC. In this EU-wide workshop, I used the Empathy Map visual tool to gather inputs from participants on the topic of how business leaders perceive sustainability.

I was very happy with all the ideas participants contributed. Some of them confirmed my own observations and some of them opened new perspectives. Since I know many of us working in sustainability have the same challenge of motivating businesses to get into sustainable development, I want to share the takeaways from this session with everybody. Maybe you find something that helps you.

Below I listed a few takeaways that I found the most valuable, and here you can download the entire export from the Miro board we used for the brainstorming:

My takeaways

  • There’s still a lot of scepticism. Many people believe sustainability is a new marketing trend, they don’t really feel the necessity to change anything. Even if they do, many feel it’s too time-consuming and costly to change their way of doing business, because they don’t see that their actions make any difference.
  • Obvious one – most people are still making decisions based primarily on the business opportunity it presents to them. Communicating the business benefits is crucial for this. Some of them that came up in this brainstorming session are: new revenue channels, attracting more customers who value sustainability, increasing resource efficiency and becoming an attractive employer.
  • This one was very interesting and important to me – the importance of communicating values and strategies inside the company, so that all employees are aligned. Translating values or vision into tangible actions that regular employees can understand and embrace is really important and really difficult. Most importantly, the leader needs to be passionate about implementing the changes so that he/she can radiate this passion throughout the company.
  • Knowledge sharing! It’s so important that companies don’t act as knowledge bottlenecks, but share and enrich it. I strongly believe that working for the better of the world is incompatible with keeping information confidential. That’s why I have zero trust in, for example, pharma industry. How can something that has the potential to help people be kept a business secret? Anyways, let’s not get sidetracked here.
  • Many businesses don’t seek expert advice and want to do it by themselves, often resulting in unnecessary failure and/or frustration, which at the end makes them even less likely to ever try it again. They take too superficial steps that don’t have much impact, because they are not skilled in systemic approaches. Or they go into it without really committing. Someone also mentioned the experience of developing “sustainable” products with a tunnel vision – not focusing on customer needs and failing to do proper market research. They end up with a product which is awesome in their eyes, but not in customers’.

That’s it for this post folks 🙂 I hope you found something valuable for yourself.

Stay bright!