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CEOs, corporate responsibility and the three C’s of sustainability

If you had to boil down the modern sustainability agenda into three words, what could they be?

For the leading companies, but also firms starting the journey, I think you could do worse than consider three simple ways to frame an approach:

1) Competition
2) Collaboration
3) Cultural Change

Competition is about the business case. Saving money through efficiency, making returns by isolating new opportunities, building trust from stakeholders and customers. It’s not simply about beating your rival: That matter less in sustainability than beating your own targets and bettering your own performance.

There are lots of examples of this. Here’s some research that shows it works.

And here’s an interview with the Desso CEO who has done some very interesting work transforming a business around sustainability.

Collaboration is all about working with suppliers, communities, competitors, industry groups, governments, NGOs and inter-governmental organisations to manage risk and look for new areas for the competition category. Here’s a good example of this in the postal sector, and in an airport operator. (Disclosure, Heathrow is a customer of both Ethical Corporation and my other business, Stakeholder Intelligence). There are many others, including this one from Coca-Cola Enterprises.

Cultural change covers both internal and external engagement. Clearly one of the top three issues for any business is how to get the buy in, mentally and physically, of employees. That matters hugely, and has to come before in-depth consumer comunications.

But cultural change, or a variant, is going to become the new, more meaty way to talk about communication. Telling customers what you do is stage one, but persauding them to buy better products or act differently is where you start to become strategic. That’s cultural change. Here’s an example. And here’s another one. And one more here, from Unilever.

There’s a lot more to be said about all of this, but this is a blog, so I must keep posts fairly short.

You can meet the leading players mentioned above, and many others, at our big annual conference in a few weeks time in London. More info on that is here.

And you can read about all this, as it happens, in this magazine. And I hope, sometimes on this blog.

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