Over the last few months, I have begun to sense a change in the way that firms view sustainability at the strategic level. It is a sense that comes from the firms that I have been speaking with, but also in the depth of conversations that we have begun to have about how to move their firms forward in the face of the challenges they face.
To give you an example, I received the following email from an executive who was clearly on a mission to move his firm into a very different strategic position.
I am responsible for innovation in Company X’s YZ division.
YZ, we believe, needs some radical rethinking.
Some things that we have long taken for granted need to be challenged. For example, the profligate use of (resource) in our personal care rituals or the importance of the functional or emotional benefits that these rituals deliver.
I have kicked off a project that aims to explore and conceive ways of truly transforming it. As a part of this initiative we are meeting diverse thought leaders across three countries …
A similar conversation was with the head of innovation and R&D with a large chemical firm. One that was involved in ag, industrial, and food-related products… another with a client who is a leader in the food industry… and another with a logistics firm reviewing their packaging…
For me, where these conversations have grown interesting is that at the very start they are conversations that do not start out discussing environmental groups, tree planting, or greening an office, but are beginning with conversations on the struggle to understand the breadth of risks/opportunities along their supply chain, to translate a “new” mission to middle management, to engage stakeholders, and to effectively meet the expectations that they have set externally.
There are conversations that, to me, seem to be coming from the fact that many of these firms have nerve endings that are growing very sensitive. The markets that they operate in are expecting more, while at the same time their supply chains are getting more expensive and are experiencing more failures.
Their nerves are pulsing, and their brain is waking up to the fact that these models need a change. to be broken down into their part. To have their footprints understood. To be re-calibrated.
Their nerve endings are telling them that it is time to move to a new model. A model beyond business as usual.