Long-term sustainability key to successful business strategies

Long-term sustainability should be central to a business's strategic development process, according to new research by corporate responsibility consultants, Corporate Citizenship.

The authors also state that companies should ensure their sustainability teams are ‘fully integrated into the strategy development process, rather than operating in a vacuum’. (Scroll down for full report).

The report – Creating Resilient Strategies – investigates whether businesses are developing and adopting strategies which are robust and far-sighted enough to succeed within a volatile, fast-changing business environment.

The research was conducted using insights from senior employees at 16 global brands, including Jaguar-Rover, the National Grid, Cisco Systems (Europe) and United Airlines. It focuses on markets in Europe, North America and South East Asia, with separate versions produced for each market.

Merging sustainability

Announcing the report’s publication, Corporate Citizenship’s managing director Karin Laljani said: “We are grateful to the contributing companies for allowing us to learn from their own personal strategic challenges around disruption versus linear thinking, demands from society versus those of the shareholders, and their own experiences of what makes for success or failure.”

The report’s authors recommend that, in order to develop resilient strategies, senior management teams should place their businesses in the context of wider society. This means taking into account environmental, economic, cultural, social, technological and political factors.

They suggest that one of the key ways in which businesses can do this is by merging their sustainability and corporate strategies. The research shows that even within large, globally successful organisations, sustainability teams often work independently from strategic planning teams, and few companies take advice from external strategy and sustainability experts.

Planning ahead

The research also suggests that many organisations are not looking far enough ahead when it comes to corporate strategies, suggesting that businesses typically work to five-year plans.

It concludes that businesses should be forward-thinking so that they can become leaders when new trends appear, and they should revise and review their plans regularly. Focusing on a holistic approach and enabling sustainability teams and strategy planning teams to work closely together can also help business leaders to identify potential long-term trends and issues.

The report’s conclusions concur with the results of a recent McKinsey Global Survey, which suggests businesses are struggling to fully integrate corporate sustainability strategies into their cultures and take advantage of their benefits.

REPORT: Creating Resilient Strategies in Europe

Edie staff

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