Sustainability is rising to be top or close to the top of a boards agenda. The growing concerns of several intertwined issues need addressing as they will initiate a significant change to the Business and how it operates and presents itself to the world.
Boards are asking where our business fits within and alongside society, both in who we serve and society in general, coupled with realising that the planet is heading towards a critical crisis and what we can do to reduce these pressures?
Not just sustainability forces a sharper need for strategic choices but the ability to undertake the product reinvention. A reinvention that concerns itself with reducing waste, minimizing carbon emissions, valuing the full life cycle and the ability to show the increasingly important end-of-life part of the lifecycle model. To extract precious, rare earth minerals and recycle parts reduces the demand for future mining or heat intensive materials.
Any products need to have a clear understanding of all their stages for the clarity of sustainability.
A clarification that the materials were sourced from green energy or sustainable sources to build, deliver and dispose of the product in this new truly sustainable economy approach is needed. Green credentials are going to become super important to the consumer’s decision to buy or not.
To embrace sustainability, you embrace a new set of principles of governance that bring the planet, people and prosperity far more into the thinking. What would that mean in the magnitude of change? How do you assess if your current business portfolio is sustainability proof of not just what is required or needed for today but also in the future? Different scenario thinking needs a constant mindset and evaluation.
Sustainability is becoming hugely critical for a business to build out its pathway.
I have been writing about sustainability in several posts recently over on my ecosystems4innovators posting site. If you want to think about how sustainability will affect you, the three posts tackle different aspects of sustainability. I firstly looked at the Environmental, social and corporate governance in “Looking beyond ESG“, then followed up with the need for finding a “Sustainable Value Creation“, and finally, in this mini-series “, Sustainability is the new growth core.”
The argument is to envision today going forward and the future working back for framing the different scenarios.
Each of these different approaches to framing future challenges requires different thinking. The two perspectives, predicting forward, working back, give insights into alternative positions and build out required milestones for the next 5,10, and 20 years. The annual business plan has become increasingly adaptive to meet today’s operating conditions.
These different scenario plans are essential for the business to manage a sustainability pathway, navigating in increased uncertainty, challenge and complexity and become the dynamic strategic document for moving towards a sustainable future.
I wrote an article on the Art of Back Casting that needs care earlier this year. In this, I was suggesting, backcasting is not concerned with predicting the future: The major distinguishing characteristic of backcasting analyses is the concern, not with likely energy futures, for example, but with how the desirable futures can be attained in this future working back approach.
So In this clean and green future, the consistent moving towards a desirable position for the planet, people and prosperity from only using clean energy, having fully decarbonised plants and supply chains, managing more efficiently and reducing waste. Are the products or services we sell environmentally friendly, easy to dispose of and made from sustainable sources of material or raw materials? So for knowing the future we need to achieve, we move back to achieving it over a given period.
“The concept of “backcasting” is central to a strategic approach for sustainable development. It is a way of planning in which a successful outcome is imagined in the future, followed by the question: “what do we need to do today to reach that successful outcome?”
The 3H methodology enables us to look out into the future across different horizons.
It allows us to gauge the challenges, adding aspects we are beginning to gain a sense of, transitioning from one position to another. It requires us to reflect and possibly make the change, then we can move forward to meet the new challenges within this emerging vision of the possible futures.
I have focused for many years, teaching, advising and building the-critical-value-propositions-of-the-three-horizon-methodology (3H- pdf download). Envisaging what we know and have today, we can begin to “plot” a pathway, here a Sustainability pathway, into the future in clear steps moving and supporting the existing and traversing to the seen future. For me, the value of the 3H has been one of my primary areas of focus for my innovation and change work for many years. It has a contributing value to any sustainability thinking. An example of explaining this might be worth the click: “Navigating of the three horizons framework- an emerging guide.”
The Three Horizon Framework for Managing.
The 3H can help tackle complex problems and draw out the future intent on sustainability; in its planning, resource allocations and skill gap identification to build capabilities and capacities to be ‘future-ready. We need to map the sustainability pathway across the three horizons. There will be constant disruption along the way.
The three voices that are to be hopefully found in the same board room when you undertake this
The different voices involved can be highly engaged; you have the voice of today, more concerned with managing the existing, maximizing returns and keeping the organization going efficiently and effectively. Then you have the second voice, the voice of the entrepreneur, the one eager to experiment, try out new things, explore and extend, accepting some aspects will not work. The third voice, of the aspirant, who is looking to build a different vision, believing in different, more pioneering ways and visualizes things in their ‘mind’s eye’, far more aspirational, that can seem on first ‘take’ look to be totally incompatible to the reality of today.
A critical assessment of the present business and how it will “project” into the future is needed.
To embrace sustainability requires a no-holds-barred assessment of the present business and what is required in resources, shifts in strategic design and stakeholder dialogue. The journey does need a robust level of quantifying the disruption, for not just better-informed decisions based on fact-based or at least best assumptions.
The value of applying BOTH framing techniques to determining a sustainability pathway is to begin to make the connection’s, shifting individual thinking into team actions and decisions. Building multiple scenarios helps bring strategy, vision and innovation into greater alignment of thinking through diverging and then converging and then selecting the determined pathway from these alternatives.
Sustainability will drive the future of business. The evolution of innovation will come from increasing alignment. Any journey like this needs to commit to moving forward, learning, pivoting where needed, recognizing what and why that has been seen and understood and now needs changing, and re-affirming the moving forward again in approaches that continue to build future scenario’s built on evolving understandings.