Huh? What the @$%* is Impact Sustainability?
Impact Sustainability will improve your performance and make your business more attractive to investors, employees, stakeholders, regulators.
It is what all sustainability should be – impactful. Impacting positively on society, business and the environment. And strategically aligned to avoid zero-sum trade-offs across all three dimensions.
Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Too often it ends up focused on one dimension, often at the expense of the others. Too focused on social impact or environmental stewardship with a resulting business cost instead of business value. Too focused on business impact with social impact and environmental performance limited to self-serving hype.
mpact sustainability isn’t easy. It takes focus and strategy, and constant management. It requires more than simply balancing social, business and environmental dimensions. True impact sustainability means you find and develop those areas of synergy where creating value in one dimension supports and creates value in another.
Impact Sustainability is finding the strategies and approaches where creating social value drives business value at the same time, where improving environmental efficiency improves business viability and sustainable competitive advantage. Those are the spots where true impact sustainability happens.
For example, I run Baraka Shea Butter, a business that produces shea butter in northern Ghana, exports it to Canada and markets it throughout North America and around the world as an ingredient for the rapidly growing Natural and Organic Skincare and Cosmetics sector. We have aligned social impact, environmental stewardship with our business strategy to create a sustainable competitive advantage.
We pay above market price for the shea butter the women produce, above market for wages, we develop and implement education, youth, environment and development projects and prioritize environmental stewardship. All of this adds cost and complexity. Yet, it also adds business value. 1+1=3.
We recognize that these social value adding activities can, if used strategically, be very effective for communication, branding and marketing. They have helped create a purpose driven brand, along with customer loyalty and a competitive advantage that gives us a business return on the social and environmental costs we incur. Creating more social value and better environmental stewardship pays off for our business. And, it makes our business more fun and fulfilling. Check out Baraka’s 2022 Impact Report and its innovative Waste to Energy initiative
But, don’t think these things just happen, or that Baraka is a unique business.
The reality is that Impact Sustainability, this synergy between business value, social value and environmental stewardship is achievable in most businesses.
I have personally consulted with businesses of all types all over the world and have consistently helped them to find that synergy, that alignment of their business interests with social/community impact and environmental stewardship. Our alumni consistently report that the tools and frameworks gleaned in our Masterclass and Bespoke programs have enabled them to achieve this.
When businesses and leaders understand the concept and have the tools and frameworks to develop and implement the strategies and tactics that create the supporting value propositions, then Impact Sustainability is almost certain to happen.
It is important to understand how to identify opportunities and to use areas such as these to drive value integration and synergy:
➤ CSR Reporting & Communications
➤ Impact Measurement
➤ SDG and Sustainability Partnerships
➤ SDG Engagement
➤ ESG Implementation
➤ Stakeholder Engagement
➤ Sustainability and Finance
➤ Sustainability Reporting
The keys to Impact Sustainability are there. They require work and discipline, both in
developing the strategies and in executing on them.
Our online resource library of written articles and video channels has material that can help you achieve this. We also offer Open Registration Masterclasses and Bespoke Training services that can help you drive this agenda forward successfully in your business and career.
ESG, Sustainability & CSR should be as much a business value driver as it is a social and environmental value driver. If it gets out of balance it creates risk and makes the sustainability and indeed, even the business itself, potentially less sustainable.
Business is about creating value. CSR, ESG and Sustainability are also about creating value; value for society, for environment and for shareholders.
Thanks for reading
Prof. Wayne Dunn
President & Founder