Sustainability is often used as a catchall term for all a company’s activities, commitments, and actions to reduce its impact on the environment and address social and economic issues. One of the difficulties in getting sustainability right is that the activities included under this umbrella range widely, from building a circular business model and commercialising green products to creating job opportunities for underrepresented groups and reducing pay inequality.
As companies mobilise to achieve their sustainability goals, they have to make complex decisions, and, in the face of competing priorities, limited resources, and unsuitable operating models, many are falling short of achieving their sustainability goals.
Sustainability goals must be supported by the right operating models
Under increasing internal and external pressures, there may be temptation to implement reactionary initiatives that might look good in the short term but do not deliver lasting impact. To overcome challenges and deliver on sustainability goals, leaders need to rethink the way their organisation functions and design operating models that are fit-for-sustainable outcomes.
Organisations can achieve their sustainability goals by getting the fundamentals right, beginning with holistically (re)designing: business models, structures, processes, capabilities, governance, ways of working as well as metrics, incentives, funding and resourcing.
The gap between sustainability goals and organisational design decreases an organisation's ability to deliver on its objectives, because it lacks the necessary tools and support systems. In our 2022 Global Talent Trends study, almost two in three global C-Suite leaders said they are concerned that their ability to effectively embed sustainability into transformation plans will impact their organisation’s commitment to its sustainability objectives.
Five essential elements to help you achieve your sustainability goals
Stakeholder engagement – organising the communication
Breadth of focus and scope – organising the spotlight
Structure and governance – organising accountability and oversight
Resource management – organising talent and capability
Metrics, incentives and funding – organising the numbers
About the five dimensions
Each of the five dimensions represents a spectrum of choices that leaders must make, and each choice has wider organisational implications.
We recommend using this framework, firstly, as a guiding tool to evaluate your current ability to successfully drive your sustainability agenda, and secondly, to model what organisational design changes you might make to achieve your sustainability goals.
Our new report, Organising for Sustainability, explores these five dimensions in detail, including the decisions and success factors involved in transforming organisational design to achieve sustainability goals. In Organising for Sustainability, we share case examples that bring to life the considerations, approaches and challenges organisations are currently navigating.
Partner, Workforce Transformation
Senior Associate, Workforce Transformation, Pacific