Many companies claim that sustainability is embedded in their DNA or sits at the heart of their business. The reality is that very few corporations have fully integrated or embedded sustainability into their business models. The need for integrated sustainability is urgent; in order to address today’s pressing global issues such as resource scarcity, climate change and inequality, the private sector must integrate environmental and social considerations into every business decision. Embedding sustainability into business not only helps secure a sustainable future, but it also benefits companies, enabling them to prepare for future risks, act on opportunities and create more value for the business and its stakeholders.
In Sustainability Incorporated Sustainability highlighted five pathways that sustainability practitioners can simultaneously leverage to further integrate sustainability into their businesses. We also present case studies of leadership within those five pathways, a discussion of the role of leadership, and learnings from South Africa and key Asian markets. While the five pathways are not the only ways to embed sustainability, they have proven useful for numerous companies and also align in practical ways with many of the existing responsibilities of practitioners. We encourage practitioners to explore our findings, follow these pathways and continue their work integrating sustainability into business and into the broader global systems at play. The five pathways detailed in the report are:
- Employing business model thinking: Build an understanding of how the business creates value by creating a visual map of the business model
- Putting materiality to use: Focus and act upon key issues in ways directly tied to core business activity
- Applying a sustainability lens to products and services: Add a sustainability lens at decision-making points in product and service design life cycles
- Tapping into culture: Understand aspects of the company’s culture that can drive sustainability outcomes
- Leveraging transparency: Use transparency—and integrated reporting specifically—to drive and reflect integrated thinking