Dr. Alexander Frech is CEO of the Amiblu Group, the leading GRP pipe producers, focusing on water-management solutions worldwide.
We live in a period in which the following quote by T. Siedner has never been more pertinent: “There is no more neutrality in the world. You either have to be part of the solution, or you’re going to be part of the problem.” More simply put: It is time to take a stand. There is no more neutral position, no keeping your head down — especially when it comes to climate change and protecting our planet.
Sustainability As The Core Of A Business Strategy
It is my ﬁrm belief that companies have a responsibility to act, to change the world for the better. It doesn’t matter whether you are selling to consumers or other businesses. In the end, we are all in the H2H — human to human — industry, and at every turn, we have the opportunity to make a difference.
There are many examples of companies taking a stand, and not always as a publicity move, either. In 2018, WeWork released a no-meat policy, pledging to no longer serve meat at company events or pay for staff’s expensive steak dinners. WeWork’s policy was predicted to save 445 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, 16.7 billion gallons of water and 15 million animals within five years. Apple runs their operations on renewable energy, while Microsoft is working to become carbon negative by 2030 and remove their historical carbon emissions by 2050.
At my company, Amiblu, our goal is to provide a sustainable water infrastructure on a global scale by developing environmentally friendly glass-ﬁber composite materials and glassﬁber reinforced plastics pipes. Our motto is “Let’s value water as we should.” Sustainability is not just one of our company values or something written in our training manuals. Rather, it is the very core of our business strategy.
If companies want to have a positive impact, they need to think about their values ﬁrst and keep them at the center of their decision-making. They must decide what changes they want to make in the world and then come up with actionable steps to get there. Following your values should guide your business strategy overall, leading to innovative products, services and processes that speak for themselves.
Brands are uniquely positioned to create change because they have the ability to raise awareness and change people’s minds. It can also be a sound business move, considering that 66% of consumers say it is important for brands to take public stands on social and political issues.
Thinking Through Your Strategy
When it comes to procurement processes, sustainability is often not a criterion, but that must change. Sustainability should be the most essential question when governments make decisions that last for decades and generations to come. Companies have the opportunity to challenge the status quo, even to challenge governments. Especially when it comes to protecting the environment, they have the opportunity to offer solutions in their ﬁeld. Below are three questions to help you get started:
• What are your company values?
• What impact do you want to have on the world?
• What is one thing you can do right now?
These aren’t rhetorical. Sit down and think about them. Find ways to live them.
Time To Take Action
Once you’ve thought through those questions and have your answers, it’s time to act. Here are three things you can do to get started.
1. Bring the C-suite on board.
Discuss what changes you can make right now. Make the point that acting on issues of sustainability is becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Far from environmentalism being a niche, outsider concern, within the next few years your company could look like a dinosaur if you haven’t taken climate concerns into account.
What is happening right now is similar to the change triggered by digitization. Maybe you remember that growing up, there was a so-called “computer room” in school. One room was dedicated to computers. From today’s perspective, this seems unbelievably outdated, as every subject now requires the use of technology. There is a similar thing happening with sustainability. Many companies are trying to pack it into a “room,” whereas actually, it should be a part of every element of a business. Discussing this with the rest of the management team is a crucial part of this endeavor.
2. Set attainable goals.
It is in everyone’s interests to set speciﬁc, measurable and immediate goals. Yes, becoming carbon negative is your ultimate goal, but what can employees and management do today and tomorrow to reach that point? It may be as small as recycling or bringing in meat-free company meals, or as big as redesigning manufacturing processes to use 50% less water. No matter the scope, every goal should be actionable.
3. Communicate with employees.
Speaking with employees should be close to the top of your list of priorities. The International Institute for Sustainability Development has a lot of advice for governments communicating with citizens, but it can largely be applied to businesses communicating with their staff, too. For example, there is a need for real clarity of vision — if you’re aiming for net-zero carbon or even to become carbon negative (like Microsoft) within a certain timeframe, can you conﬁdently say your staff all know what ‘net zero’ means? Make sure your staff speaks the same language as yourself and the C-suite.
Of course, every industry is different. You know yours best. Come up with sustainability or social impact goals speciﬁc to your business and apply them to every move you make in the future. Remember what T. Siedner said: There is no neutrality. Be part of the solution.