Fighting an Uphill Battle?
Leaders come into sustainability from different internal roles or as external hires. Solutions to resulting challenges differ – learning sustainability, building influence or both. Leaders may see enthusiasm or a push from their stakeholders to do business more sustainably. This mix of context can be daunting.
External hires are usually selected for their sustainability expertise. They may have obtained a degree, certification and/or are self-educated in sustainability. They often have experience with a consulting, rating, non-profit or other corporate organization. External leaders coming into the company lack the internal relationships required for success.
Some companies choose a sustainability leader internally by moving someone into the role either due to their trusted leadership, or less positively due to lack of fit in other roles. These leaders may have great influence and leadership capability in the organization but need to jumpstart their learning on key sustainability issues and implementation strategies.
Sustainability implementation requires both expertise and leading through influence. Leaders may say they “feel that they're fighting an uphill battle”. In many organizations, the sustainability leader and perhaps small team feel “alone” since the largest parts of the organization are focused on the business model, bottom line, and profit and loss. Ensuring that all aspects of sustainability are tied to the business in a relevant way is a critical success factor. Some leaders also express concern about “lack of support from the top” without realizing that developing that support is a key priority for their role.
The solution is to strengthen prioritization, relationships, systems and alignment.