Personal Finance

Why today’s work should save future

boardroom

Environmental performance is a function of stakeholder influence, alongside gender diversity in leadership posts and influence. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK

Summary

  • Sustainability is the practice or behaviour of going about our day-to-day life with a consideration that our respective activities bear no harm to the planet, people and society today and in future. The goal is to ensure longevity and wellbeing across social, economic and environmental realms.

I'm excited to share with my readers that on Friday I'll be conferred with a PhD in business and management from Strathmore University Business School.

This new feather to my professional cap fits well within my profile as a sustainability thought leader and broadens my capacity as a corporate world sustainable development goals evangelist.

While sustainability has always been my wheelhouse, the fast-paced evolving nature of the field and associated challenges require constant sharpening of tools and adjustments. That's the only way to stay at the tip of the curve.

I sharpened my PhD focus on strategy and the thesis is built around forces behind corporate sustainability performance.

Through my thesis research, I sought to find answers to the question: what factors could influence companies to voluntarily embed sustainability features in their operations?

But before I take a deep-dive into the findings of the study, let me put in context why we should all—businesses, households and governments—care about sustainability.

Simply put, sustainability is the practice or behaviour of going about our day-to-day life with a consideration that our respective activities bear no harm to the planet, people and society today and in future.

The goal is to ensure longevity and wellbeing across social, economic and environmental realms.

In the context of businesses, it means the pursuit of profits shouldn't come at a cost to the environment and people's welfare.

But for long firms across the globe have continued to put oversized focus on financial returns more than anything else. And this is exactly what informed my study, the goal being to share a few nuggets that may point enterprises towards eco-friendly pathways, sooner rather than later, voluntarily rather than forced.

Firms around the globe are among largest users of natural resources and energy, and consequently, end up as key sources of waste and emissions. This, therefore, makes it important for them to have sustainable environmental management plans as far as their resource exploitation and waste generation are concerned.

Back to the findings of my thesis research; what are the factors that could determine whether or not a business goes green in its practices?

Environmental performance, my study revealed, is a function of stakeholder influence (managers and employees, shareholders, competitors, the general public and regulators), alongside gender diversity in leadership posts and influence from environmental institutions. To begin with, high expectations from stakeholders could put a business under a healthy dose of pressure to voluntarily adopt sustainable behaviour and protect its fortunes.

From regulatory agencies to consumers and employees, stakeholders should set the bar high for firms to toe the line of responsible production and consumption.

Next, I established through my research that companies with one or more women on their boards or in top management are more likely to display green behaviour in various forms compared to male-dominated corporations.

In other words, more women executives than men are environmentally-conscious.

As per the findings, gender-diverse companies stand head and shoulders above the rest in promoting sustainability practices.

This may be of interest to policymakers in implementing gender quotas within the corporate level. It also offers top managers a guideline for formulating environmental management policies and hands recruiters key takeaways in assembling talent pools necessary to advance the sustainability agenda.

Finally, no organisation can afford to operate in a silo. Collaborations and partnerships towards synergies has become the name of the game for dynamic companies in modern times.

Organisational behaviour, to this end, could be positively influenced by other institutions operating in the sustainability space.

The UN Global Compact Network, for instance, which is the world's largest corporate sustainability initiative, is leading the charge in encouraging more and more firms to join the green movement. For firms, getting a membership into this club comes with commitment to sustainable goals and targets, helped by a set of shared tools.

Equally, global certifications and the brand visibility that comes with it tend to set enterprises on the path of environmental responsibility. This includes ISO 14001—an international standard that promotes effective environmental management system (EMS). It provides a framework that an organisation can follow to enhance its environmental performance.

Also leading the green charge are environment-focused agencies such as Green Climate Fund (GCF) and Global environment facility (GEF), which are promoting eco-solutions through advocacy campaigns, partnerships, resource mobilisation and technical support.