Reflect, Review and Renew: The Three "Rs" of Maximising Corporate Investment in Sustainability

If necessity is the mother of all invention, then self-reflection is the master of change and renewal

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With environmental policies failing to resonate with voters in the recent election and a Federal Budget that offered no new major measures to address climate change, it is increasingly falling to business and industry to lead the charge in environmental sustainability.

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Initiatives such as solar energy or sustainable production processes have the potential to add financial, social and environmental values to companies. However, careful planning and execution is needed to maximise returns.

Many companies have built a sustainable infrastructure practices in manufacturing, travel and service sectors. These companies already employ innovations like energy efficient offices, waste minimisation practises, ethical sourcing, and social outreach programs; but at times they struggle to articulate their actions and approaches as a cohesive sustainability strategy.

All businesses can benefit from hitting the pause button to re-evaluate their sustainability strategy and examine new areas of opportunity to maximise their investment.  

Fresh Eyes

Sustainability-related innovations can occur at all corporate levels, and companies need to make sure they don’t overlook obvious changes. The impetus to re-evaluate sustainability in an organisation can be triggered by something as routine as a change in management or as significant as a natural disaster. In response to the 2011 Brisbane floods, companies were faced with the option to build quickly or build better by factoring sustainability into new designs.

Get the Team On-board

Actions have more impact when it’s clear to see how they fit into a bigger picture. Don’t operate in a silo. It’s worthwhile to investigate what other areas of the organisation are doing in terms of sustainability, innovation and efficiency improvements. What new projects has the organisation planned and what are the sustainability opportunities?

Share your Plans and Achievements

Share successes with your team, but always temper them with facts and action. Transparency in sustainability planning and action is becoming increasingly important for companies to meet the demands of stakeholders and investors. The actions of leading companies can influence and increase industry standards. At a local level, extending sustainably standards to contractors and suppliers can encourage and magnify change directly.

Companies preparing to invest in sustainability should first reflect on three questions in order to maximise their investment:

  1. Are sustainability actions and strategy working together as a whole or are there gaps?
  2. Are sustainability actions meaningful for employees and customers?
  3. How can the company’s sustainability story be shared with others to magnify its impact?

Small wins are vital components in laying the path for sustainability as they are the foundation on which larger projects are built.

Belinda Wade

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Belinda is a lecturer within the Strategy Discipline of the University of Queensland Business School and co-leader of the research theme - Business Sustainability Initiative: Building Resilience and Adapting to Change. Belinda’s teaching closely follows her research agenda which examines organizational adaptation to sustainability issues. Recent research has highlighted decarbonising actions taken within contrasting Australian industry sectors and the dynamic capabilities which can promote greater adaptation to market changes related to the growing pressure to decarbonise the Australian economy.

On a professional level, Belinda has worked extensively within the marketing and trading areas of major energy providers, in a mix of commercial analytical, trading and managerial roles in both traditional energy and environmental product markets.