Bookcase : China 2020 Strategy for Sustainability – A business manifesto

• Adam Werbach • Harvard Business Press • RRP $45

It is sad reality that lot of managers will look at this title, sigh fretfully and turn to something that looks more pragmatic, perhaps more relevant to their immediate business needs. They’d be missing heap.
Strategy for Sustainability is new take on how companies can be ‘built to last’ in world where economic, social, cultural and (yes) environmental imperatives are demanding major shift in business thinking. Companies that want to survive and thrive, says Werbach, need to base their strategy around seven tenets: that natural resources are becoming increasingly scarce and expensive; massive demographic change is occurring; the most important renewable resource is people; cashflow matters more than quarterly earnings; every organisation’s operating environment will change as dramatically in the next three to five years as it has in the past five; chaotic external world requires internal cohesion and flexibility; and only the truly transparent will survive.
How to do that?
Try StaR mapping – highlighting the opportunities arising from changes in society, technology and resources.
Set “north star goal” – an overarching guide that has the following characteristics: it’s optimistic and aspirational; can be achieved in five to 15 years; applies across the enterprise; can be acted on by each employee; connects to the core of the business; drives excitement and passion; serves higher purpose than business profitability, solves great human challenge; and, leverages your organisation’s strengths.
Execute through TEN cycle – positive feedback look of transparency (recognising blind spots, avoiding secrets, sharing information etc), engagement (motivated employees are major asset), and networking (a company can’t execute its strategy alone).
Back in 1997, Werbach presented his well-argued, environmentalist speech about why we should value and protect our wetlands to the then mayor of New Orleans. He got polite hearing but little traction. Eight years later hurricane Katrina provided powerful proof that the environment was not some kind of tack-on, feel-good peripheral concern for the city. It’s clearly at the heart of economic, business, and community life.
But sustainability is “not about throwing your business down the drain and embracing your inner do-gooder”, says Werbach.
Green alone is not broad-enough platform to sustain most businesses for the long-haul. Sustainability is much more about standing in the future in way that enables your business to adapt to and succeed in complex, rapidly changing world.

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