Can you explain to us what you personally consider to be (corporate) sustainability?
To understand corporate sustainability as a concept, I believe it is important to comprehend that every company operates within a certain context. That context may vary from one business to another, but the key elements remain the same: society, the environment and governance (those elements are often referred to as the ESG sphere of operation). Put simply, a company is truly sustainable when, in addition to profit maximisation, it also considers these three elements.
To elaborate on the previous statement: CSR is in place when a company carries out its day-to-day and strategic activities while considering the impact of those activities on the environment, society and governance. The overall effect doesn't always have to be negative by the way. On the contrary, some companies have deployed a significant number of resources to make a positive difference to their environment.
This concept has also grown significantly in recent decades. Initially, it tended to be sufficient only to minimise negative impacts of business activities. But in today's world, global leaders like Microsoft and Google aim to take it even further: they strive to offset the negative impacts of their past activities.
How do you see sustainability evolving in a business context? What do you think will be the key challenges ahead?
The main challenge for sustainability companies is to recognise that sustainability is not only one of the most difficult challenges, but also one of the biggest opportunities for companies to excel and become market leaders. Let's break down this statement into a few points.
First, I think the concept of sustainability is still evolving. And I don't just mean sustainability within business. World leaders and regulators are currently breaking their heads over the definitions and models that will allow us to fully understand the impact we, as a society, have on our environment.
This results in new policies and laws that companies will have to comply with. As the global need for change becomes clearer, spurred by "once-in-a-lifetime" events (of which I have personally experienced at least five so far), those laws and policies will become more stringent. Reporting will be required to be more sophisticated, the action plan for improvement will be required to be more time-bound, and the data will be required to be more transparent.
It may sound scary, but these changes can actually help companies better understand what they are doing right and, more importantly, what they are doing wrong. More detailed data means more insight into the organisation's internal processes, which are often likened to a lifeblood of businesses.
In addition, ongoing events such as global warming, the war in Ukraine and the coming energy crisis are already affecting every household and business worldwide. Some resources are becoming scarcer, certain practices are banned or significantly restricted by lawmakers, and some logistics routes simply cannot keep up with current demand.
This implies that companies will have to be more efficient, effective and creative in order to offer quality products at a reasonable price. To do so, they need to create a clear overview of their current situation so that they can determine where they want to stand in the future. This will enable them to harness their internal creativity and talent, which are often overlooked by so many.