Survey Report: “Sustainability is a driver of innovation in leading companies”
Together with Bird & Bird’s Retail & Consumer team, OXYGY surveyed clients on the impact of sustainability on business priorities, innovation and leadership. We talked to David Rosenberg (Director Sustainability at OXYGY) about the results and what companies can learn from them.
David, tell us more about the background of the survey. What interested you? What were the guiding thoughts when you developed the survey?
Our starting assumption was that our clients’ businesses are increasingly impacted by sustainability, and we wanted to understand their experience of that change. What are their perceptions about sustainability as a driver for innovation and business improvement? We were specifically interested in the extent to which sustainability is affecting our actual clients—the executives with whom we typically work directly tend not to have a sustainability title, but represent a broader range of functions and roles. Additionally, we wanted to understand how the Covid-19 pandemic has impacted their sustainability efforts.
What are the key take-aways that emerge from the survey results?
First, we can say that the companies making the most progress are those that see sustainability as a driver for innovation and thus for future profitable growth. It is intuitively obvious: if you think it is important, you will pay attention and see opportunities, and if you don’t think it is important, you may miss them.
Second, collaboration is an important capability to successfully implement sustainability strategies. Clients tell us repeatedly that their most important sustainability challenges cannot be tackled alone. So collaboration, both internally and externally, is becoming an essential business skill.
Lastly, we found that employees are interested in sustainability and want to be more involved. ,More than a quarter of survey respondents stated they had higher ambitions than their employers. Companies should take advantage of this wellspring of motivation. It will be important for attracting and retaining employees in the long term.
The participants of the survey came from the retail & consumer sector. Can the results also be transferred to other industries?
The participants in this survey came from a range of different organizations from across the Retail and Consumer sector. We suspect that our core findings–namely that sustainability can be a driver for innovation and that employees are strongly interested–will also apply to other companies. We will extend the survey to other industries to investigate this.
What advice do you have for companies looking to become more sustainable?
First of all, start! Questions of “if” or “why” are long behind us. Companies today across the board are taking time to reimagine and reinvent their business models. Sustainability implies business model innovation and business transformation to change products and processes, anticipating customer needs and changing regulations. And it implies reimagining objectives and reporting, so that tracking the progress of the business’s achievements and sustainability become one and the same. We would be happy to discuss in more detail what this journey could look like and how to get it started in your organization.
David Rosenberg is a Director at OXYGY. He has 30+ years of sustainability, international business and non-profit experience. He supports executive teams and organizations with the alignment of purpose, strategy and leadership to build and implement sustainability strategies that are impactful, material and communicable.