Ramboll’s Managing Sustainability survey shows that, of the 160 companies that responded, 95% say sustainability is an important factor for the long-term success of their business. This applies to companies from all sectors including manufacturing, chemical & pharma, professional services, finance & insurance, energy and property. However, implementing sustainability into business models needs a strategic approach.
Jens Haubensak, sustainability expert at Ramboll, says: “The change that comes with the increasing pressure of sustainability issues may sound threatening at first, but it does not have to be. On the contrary, if approached strategically and systematically, fundamental change also brings momentum to organisational transformation and, ultimately, new business opportunities.”
Methodologies and tools are available to provide practical assistance for sustainability managers to contend with this challenge. “Concepts such as planetary boundaries or circular economy are useful to re-frame the strategic perspective and capture a holistic view on current and future drivers, as well as their interactions and business impacts,” says Jens Haubensak. On an operational level, well-proven management systems provide effective platforms to make strategies manageable. Science-driven methodologies such as life-cycle assessments or carbon foot printing can be applied to make performance measurable.
The survey shows that internal and external drivers are equally important for implementing sustainability. "When looking into operating more sustainably, 48% of respondents are concerned about minimising risk. For 49%, securing a positive reputation and meeting stakeholder expectations also plays an important role," says Jens Haubensak, adding: "Inevitably, developments in regulatory frameworks and customer requests increase the pressure on companies to concretely demonstrate how they deal with and, moreover, positively contribute to sustainability."
Strategically, the majority of represented companies focus on environmental sustainability, with climate change in the lead (83%), followed by chemical pollution (44%), freshwater scarcity and quality (37%) as well as air pollution (32%). Social aspects such as protecting human rights, reducing inequality and injustice as well as poverty or epidemic diseases have been named by 23% of the respondents.
Although sustainability awareness and motivation for operating in a more sustainable way are high, there are challenges when it comes to implementation. "Almost half of the companies in our survey say that they are lacking the resources and the capacity to more effectively implement the strategy," explains Jens Haubensak. Financial aspects such as poor measurability of sustainability related value creation and concrete benefits (41%) as well as perceived high investment needs (34%) are challenging topics as well.
“This survey clearly shows that companies already are in the process of sustainable transformation but need to further advance their strategies and systems in order to capitalise on emerging new business opportunities. However, there is no one-size-fits-all approach and specific strategic options and solutions need to be developed. We at Ramboll have the methodological know-how and in-depth industry experience to individually accompany our clients on their way towards a sustainable and value-creating business.”