7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success

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7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success A practical guide for sustainability and CSR professionals Carola Wijdoogen → Cover design and layout: Justus Bottenheft Editing: Selese Roche, Jodi van Oudheusden-Peita Illustrations: Shirley Warlich, www.visenchips.nl © 2020 Carola Wijdoogen and Sustainability University Foundation Amsterdam ISBN 978-90-829497-4-2 ISBN E-book 978-90-829497-5-9 All parts of this publication may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval sys- tem, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise after prior express written permission of the author. 7 Roles for Sustainable Success is printed in the Netherlands by Wilco Printers, who themselves aim to work with respect for the environment, their employees and customers (ISO 14001 certified). The heat generated by the printing process is reused to warm their building. The company is compensating all production, transport and employee commuting, to neutralize their CO₂ emissions to zero. In addition, new trees have been planted by Land Life Company to compen- sate for the paper and the CO₂ emissions to get this book to you. See the trees we planted for this book here: www.landlifecompany.com. Land Life Company is a tech-driven reforestation company that restores degraded land in Southern Europe, the US and Australia. In order to extend the lifetime and positive impact of the book, we used good quality design: please share or resell the book after reading. And at the end of the book’s lifetime, please recycle. 5 Table of Contents Forewords 9 Why? 13 1 Introduction 15 2 The Networker 21 3 The Strategist 41 4 The Coordinator & Initiator 59 5 The Stimulator & Connector 81 6 The Mentor 101 7 The Innovator 127 8 The Monitor 145 9 Sustainability dynamics 167 10 Competencies 181 Closing note and prelude to new beginnings 195 Acknowledgements 197 List of contributors 199 List of figures and tables 203 Notes 205 About the author 207 6 visual table of contents Figure 0.1 Roles of a sustainability professional (numbers refer to pages of chapters) 101 145 59 7 visual table of contents Figure 0.1 Roles of a sustainability professional (numbers refer to pages of chapters) 81 41 21 127 9 Forewords Speeding up transitions: new mindset, skills and competencies T he transitions we’re currently experiencing are of such magnitude that “business as usual” is no longer an option. The Covid-19 out- break dramatically exposes the vulnerability of our vital systems and magnifies the vulnerability of vulnerable individuals in our societies. In times of uncertainty, listening to the needs of all kinds of individuals is no longer a “nice to have” (if it ever was…) but a “need to have.” Digitalization is radically changing the way we interact, share and produce. The energy tran- sition requires us to question commonly held beliefs about abundance and scarcity, fundamentally rethink business models and processes and co-cre- ate innovative solutions. With the roles of government, companies, societal players and citizens shifting, the days when ideas could be developed in ivory towers are definitely gone. Sustainability and CSR professionals are crucial change agents who can help shape and speed up these transitions. Fulfilling this important role requires the right mindset, skills and competencies. It is far less romantic and defi- nitely way more complicated than it sounds but, in the end, far more satisfy- ing than many of the traditional roles. At its core, it demands a strong belief that change is not only possible but urgent and non-negotiable. If you do not truly believe in what you do, why should others follow you? And because of the scope of the changes needed, you cannot do this alone. Partnership based on equality, real dialogue and co-creation are preconditions for suc- cess. Obtaining what you want is not about selling a slick story but about creating a shared mission and narrative with unexpected experts, as well as the usual suspects. These approaches are about asking the right questions rather than receiving definitive answers. What was said and what wasn’t? And what was said be- tween the lines? The late physicist David Bohm wrote about dialogue: “Free dialogue may well be one of the most effective ways of investigating the crises facing society and indeed the whole of human nature and consciousness today.” Forewords 10 Meandering processes of developing shared plans and ambitious missions are, by definition, chaotic. So linear processes and hierarchical reporting lines generally do not apply. Change agents create the paths and connections necessary to free up the way for the incremental steps that will lead to sys- temic change. Paradoxically, working with so many others to serve a big goal can feel lonely. So, what do you, as a professional, need to be happy and effec- tive in such a dynamic environment? Whether you think independently, are constructively disruptive and harmoniously persistent, is a personal choice. But giving up is not an option and self-reflection and humor are a must in order to survive. The remarkable Carola Wijdoogen knows firsthand what it takes to be pro- fessionally effective and personally aligned with the work she undertakes in sustainability and CSR. In this survival guide, she generously shares her rich experiences and insights. It can thus help those who not only want to speed up transitions but also want to practice these principles in their ev- eryday lives. HRH Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands, Author, Founder Reading & Writing Foundation, Missing Chapter Foundation, Number 5 Foundation Forewords 11 Business leadership for sustainable development W e live in a volatile world. Even though life — before COVID-19 — was a better experience for more people than it has been at any time in history, it is clear now that the system simply has not been functioning effectively — socially, politically, environmentally and economically. Through shocks like COVID-19, which has caught us all woefully unprepared and has been stress-testing the system dramatically, it has become apparent that business as usual is out of question and that we need to press hard on creating a more sustainable long-term world for our people and planet, with improved risk awareness and resilience in our supply chains, operations and business models. With social inequality sadly being on a steep rise and big- ger shocks than the Corona crisis yet to come, including climate change, we should better be prepared next time. Now is a pivotal moment for business to lead the way in achieving a world where more than nine billion people have a decent quality of life within the boundaries of our planet by 2050; if we miss this opportunity, we will have failed. In 2015, both the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) gave us internationally agreed frameworks we can use for trans- forming systems. Put simply, they emphasize the need for a deep change in the way our economies work, and in the way our energy, mobility, urbaniza- tion, food and social systems contribute to planetary and societal well-be- ing. In particular, the SDGs provide us with a global agenda that can help stimulate action from all sectors that benefit both people and the planet. For companies, there is a clear business case for engaging with the SDGs. Companies that understand (and improve) their SDG impacts are better placed to manage operational, regulatory and reputational risks. On the path to 2030, unlocking potentially historic market opportunities can yield at least USD $12 trillion in business value, while generating up to 380 million jobs, as well as consolidating an enduring license to operate. At the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), we have been working twenty-five years, with over two hundred member-com- panies from across the globe, to develop practical solutions to accomplish this. We advocate that business has a leading role to play as the world em- barks upon this vital journey. In fact, forward-looking companies are not only integrating sustainability at the core of their strategy, decision-making and disclosures, as long-standing masters of innovation, they are also ideal- ly positioned to become the implementation partner of choice in capturing Forewords 12 opportunities across systems change. The time has now come for acceler- ating the transition to a sustainable world where business and the capital markets contribute to a flourishing society and where managing a company within the boundaries of the planet is the norm. At the core, corporate sustainability leaders are key to the achievement of these goals; they create a meaningful contribution and have a positive im- pact, both for their companies and for society at large. In order to effectively translate sustainability goals into action and success, companies need sus- tainability professionals equipped with the necessary skills. I am pleased that this book is helping accelerate sustainable development by providing the tools for professionals on their sustainability journey. The result will be a world that is better for everyone — including businesses, which cannot survive in a society and planet that fails. Peter Bakker, President and CEO of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Mr. Bakker has led WBCSD — a global, CEO-led organization of over 200 leading businesses working together to accelerate the transition to a sustainable world — since 2012. 13 Why? T he challenges we face are enormous. I have seen with my own eyes that the ice in the Arctic is melting faster than expected and our natural “air-conditioning” is disappearing. Plastic pollution in the oceans is increasing and plastic micro debris is likely to enter our food chain. The loss of nature is ongoing. Environmental disruption is increasing our vulnerability to pandemics that threaten our health, well-being, and economy. In order to protect our planet and create a sustainable future, we need to speed up and accelerate our transition to an inclusive, fossil-free and circular economy. We have a hard task ahead, but we should not be discouraged by the magni- tude of the challenge. Gradually, we are getting to know what needs to be done and we — at least most of us — even agree that action needs to be taken. The Paris Climate Convention and the UN Sustainable Development Goals have been signed and new ways of thinking about economic growth, like the Doughnut Economy, have been introduced. A growing number of companies aim to play an important role in this tran- sition. They see not only challenges but also opportunities and seek ways to possibly turn the tide. To support their transition to sustainable business, they often appoint a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) or a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager. In 2010, I became the first Chief Sustainability Officer for the Dutch Railway (NS). The position was not only new to NS, it was also new to me. Fortunate- ly, at that time there were several CSOs already doing a great job in similar organizations. To learn what a CSO does, I started interviewing them. What makes a Chief Sustainability Officer effective? Most of the CSOs an- swered that it takes perseverance — dealing with ups and downs — and learning by trial and error to find out what is effective. As no company and no situation are alike, a one-size-fits-all solution does not exist. At the same time, I found that, although companies and situations might vary, the 7 different Roles of a CSO — based on scientific research — appears to be the same for every sustainability professional around the world. An effective CSO knows how and when which role is needed, and s(he) can alternate the different roles if the situation requires it. 14 Why? From these peers, I also learned that there is no such thing as a “sustain- ability profession.” Our jobs are temporary, since the assignment of a CSO is to embed sustainability in all processes and activities of a company or an organization. So, the sooner we — as CSOs — become redundant, the better. Nine years later however, the first generation of sustainability professionals is still here and the challenges we face are more complex and more urgent than ever. As a consequence, the need for more effective corporate sustain- ability leaders, who can speed up the transition, is growing. Most of us learn the job by listening and exchanging information with our peers. When I was awarded the title of Dutch CSO of the Year, I made it my goal to stimulate peer-to-peer learning for sustainability professionals to boost their impact around the world. With 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success, I want to contribute to that goal. I wrote it with my own experiences in mind, using the structure of the 7 Roles. What did it take to make NS the world’s first railway company with 100% wind-powered trains? Which roles did I use, when and how? In addi- tion, the book draws upon the experiences and best practices of many other CSOs and sustainability professionals. Their willingness to help stems from the “deeper drive” that unites us: accelerating sustainability in business. 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success is just one step in my journey to stimulate peer-to-peer learning between corporate sustainability leaders around the world. It covers only a fragment of the existing know-how among CSOs. I hope that it will also inspire other (former) CSOs to share their knowledge and join the global peer-to-peer learning platform of the Sustainability Uni- versity Foundation1, a co-founded social enterprise with the purpose of ac- celerating sustainability in business! 15 Introduction What is the added value of a Chief Sustainability Officer (CSO) or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) manager for a company? And what kind of work is (s)he supposed to do in a company? When is a CSO, sustainability or CSR manager effective in his or her job? The answers to these questions are de- scribed in this book on the basis of the 7 Roles that are needed to fully embed sustainability or corporate social responsibility in a company. Each role is different and adds specific value to the embedding process in the company (Figure 1.1). The roles are based on the scientific research of the competencies of CSO or CSR managers of Eghe Osagie2, in which she describes the Networker, Strategist, Coordinator, Stimulator, Mentor and Monitor roles. After conducting applied research among sustainability pro- fessionals, three amendments to her findings were made: ▪ The Coordinator role — based on the formal governance of a company — is ex- panded with the Initiator role, because starting a project or activity your- self and showing how changes can been made often works as a catalyst ▪ The Stimulator role is expanded with the Connector role, because the CSO — as a sustainability ambassador without formal influence — not only stimulates change but also creates new connections with a multidisci- plinary cross-company approach ▪ The Innovator role is added, since driving relevant innovations is essential for achieving the sustainability goals and for realizing new sustainable business models. CSO or CSR managers should not take on the execution or production roles of a company. In 7 Roles to Create Sustainable Success, I link each of the 7 Roles with the specific CSR or sustainability activities that need to be done within a role, based on the practical experience of many CSOs or CSR managers. One could view this list of roles and CSR activities as a chronological and con- tinuous step-by-step plan. Opinions vary on the correct order in which to take 1 Chapter 1 16 the steps, but it seems logical to start with the Strategic role. Then you are focusing on the “why” of sustainable entrepreneurship or CSR and the cre- ation of a vision and (integrated) strategy. The interpretation of the “why” largely determines the focus of your work as a CSR or sustainability manager. But starting with the Monitor role can also be effective because, in that role, you can determine your starting point by making clear what has already hap- pened in the field of CSR or sustainability. My experience, however, is that practice is not always reflected in a step-by-step plan. I myself have followed a different order and I have often been busy with different activities and roles at the same time. Some activities are linked to more than one role. In this book, I describe a role by showing the typical key activities that need to be executed, although these might be useful for other roles as well. So, for example, I show the role of the Networker by describing the practice of involving stakeholders. How- ever, by involving stakeholders in your Network role, you are also creating internal support for sustainability (Stimulator role) by bringing questions 1 Networker (Engage) 4 Stimulator and Connector (Challenge) 5 Mentor (Empower) 3 Coordinator and Initiator (Support) 6 Innovator (Innovate) 2 Strategist (Lead) 7 Monitor (Learn) Sustainability professional Figure 1.1 Short overview of the roles of a sustainability professional Roles 1 Networker Engage and grow the network 2 Strategist Lead for strategy 3 Coordinator and Initiator Support and catalyze implementation 4 Stimulator and Connector Challenge to inspire and connect 5 Mentor Empower others for success 6 Innovator Innovate for continuous renewal 7 Monitor Learn from reporting and/ or information Introduction 17 from outside into your organization. And in your Network role, you are not only involved with stakeholders, you are also building networks of peers to obtain ideas for your innovative processes. The classification of roles and activities fits well with my own duties and that of various fellow CSO and CSR managers and professionals in medium to large organizations. During my research, I found that the 7 Roles are recog- nized in different parts of the world; however, the definition and maturity of sustainability or CSR differ substantially. As the former West Africa CSR Director of SIFCA group Franck Eba states: “You have to take different culture into account. CSR must adapt to the economic, social, political, cultural and environmental realities of the countries where it will be implemented.” Figure 1.1 Short overview of the roles of a sustainability professional Roles Description of the role Create and maintain networks around the sustainability field and the organization’s sustainability program. Representing the company and its program in meetings with external stakeholders, peers and other parties. This is all about engaging the relevant stakeholders. Develop the sustainability strategy and integrate this into the overall strategy of the organization. This is all about creating a vision and mission. Support people in other departments in the organization to implement the sustainability strategy using the governance/organizational structure. You work with many others to create an (integrated) plan, to embed it into the organization and to set things in motion. Initially it might include starting up iconic projects yourself. Act as a sustainability ambassador, inspiring (outside-in) and activating others to integrate sustainability goals into tasks, usually without formal influence. This is all about generating support within the organization. On an individual functional level: advise, inform and train colleagues, to enable them to achieve the sustainability goals. This is all about translating sustainability to the daily reality of the workplace of each team. Initiating and guiding innovation processes, so that ideas and innovations can come to life and lead to implementation of sustainable business models, products and services. This role is all about embedding sustainability in innovation processes and initiating and coaching innovation projects. In the monitoring role, you monitor, report and evaluate the progress of the sustainability goals and the related development of the organization. You collect, interpret and act upon relevant information. This role is all about (proactively) measurement, reporting and improvement. Chapter 1 18 Differences might decrease in the coming years, when international orga- nizations and multinationals will continue to play an important role in set- ting the “sustainability agenda” globally. Every company has its own sustainability journey. For a service provider without an innovation department, the role of the sustainability manager is different from the role in a manufacturing company with its own innova- tion team. Additionally, the roles and activities of the sustainability man- ager (or team) can change as sustainability is integrated more deeply into the organization. In an organization that is just starting its sustainability journey, you are likely to be the first sustainability manager. The Coordina- tor & Initiator roles will probably be your dominant roles, focusing on initi- ating projects and mapping what is in place already. When sustainability is integrated into the vision, the strategy and the innovation process, the CSR or sustainability manager will then focus more on challenging the organi- zation to raise the bar and on driving breakthrough innovations. Some roles, like the Monitor role, might be taken by other departments. Eventually all 7 Roles will have to find an “owner” in the organization. The everyday practice is different for every CSO, CSR or sustainability profes- sional. That also makes the job interesting: not so easy to define! What’s in a name? In this book, sustainability and CSR (social responsibility) will be used in- terchangeably, unless the context requires a precise interpretation of the difference between the two terms. I often use sustainability, because it is in line with UN definitions and covers the overall social impact of companies. The same holds for organization and company, or any other entity that en- gages in business. Although I often use the CSO (Chief Sustainability Officer) as the “main character” in the book, the 7 Roles also apply to other sustain- ability or CSR job levels, such as sustainability managers or project manag- ers in divisions, staff and sustainability teams. My journey Throughout the book I will share my experiences and practices of my journey as a CSO of NS. In order to understand the context of these examples, I will first give you a short introduction to the company NS. NS is a train operating company for passenger travel. It concentrates pri- marily on improving operational performance on the railways, supported by activities that include bicycle facilities, stations and improving the door- to-door journey, together with other public transport partners. It has 36,600