Business Case of Sustainability

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The greatest challenge to nature and people is not climate change, toxicity, shrinking biodiversity, poverty, degradation of food production capacity, or corruption. These are all great challenges, but our greatest challenge, driving it all, is that our political and industrial leaders typically do not know how the myriad impacts are rooted in a set of easy-to-learn overriding mechanisms of destruction of our ecological and social systems. So, our leaders do not lead systematically towards sustainability. This contributes to another serious challenge, erosion of trust at multiple scales, including the geopolitical scale. The degradation of ecological and social systems at the global scale is tackled by “fix”-solutions, often solving one problem while creating another. The relative lack of leadership, at all levels in business and policy, is accompanied by one disappointing summit after the other. Heads of state go abroad to talk about the problems, while being locked by dependencies to industrial- and parliament leaders back home who do not understand the big challenge either. It is all accompanied by two doctrines, both flawed:

  • Sustainability pays off only if all share the burden of doing what is right.
  • Sustainability cannot be defined.

In Sweden, a unique and growing group of corporate leaders and owners have gathered since two years to do something about this. Company leaders of the StepWise group know how to work with a Framework for Strategic Sustainable Development (FSSD), including how a robust definition of ecological and social sustainability and strategic guidelines can be used to aid:

  • considerations on system boundaries;
  • evaluation of trade-offs;
  • estimations of sustainable resource potentials before investments in new technologies are made;
  • management and monitoring of supply chains;
  • effective cooperation across sectors and disciplines;
  • prevention of problems, including avoidance of unknown problems;
  • selection, use, combination and development of supplementary concepts, methods and tools;
  • design of plans for change that contribute to society’s transition towards sustainability while being economically viable for their companies.

Or in other words, they know how to act systematically for, and how to develop the business case of, sustainability. The group of executives meets at regular intervals to allow the diversity of the group to be helpful for creative innovations regarding, for instance…

  • …New product-service systems,
  • …More effective business models, and
  • …More effective cooperation with politicians, customers, employees and educators to help to enable an increased pace of the change the executives are already driving towards sustainability.

During the workshop, we will present the StepWise work and will facilitate a cooperative learning endeavor with all participants. Questions to explore include but will not be limited to:

  • Which are the leading approaches to strategic leadership towards sustainability today, and how do they relate to each other?
  • What strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges of these, including the above mentioned framework, do you see when it comes to accelerating the transition towards sustainability?
  • How can the weaknesses and challenges be overcome, and how can the strengths and opportunities be best utilized and synergies taken advantage of?
  • How could an improved StepWise model be developed and multiplied globally to accelerate the transition that is urgently needed?

Please plan on participating in our workshop.

You are warmly welcomed to explore together with us and others!

Professor Göran Broman
Professor Karl-Henrik Robèrt

Department of Strategic Sustainable Development
Blekinge Institute of Technology,
Karlskrona, Sweden

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Supporting Publications
Intellectual Contributors
The Creativity and Sustainability Forum
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  • Clean technology centre
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