Cecilia Flatum is the Head of Consulting Norway Sustainability & Climate Leader, Consulting Europe for Deloitte. She serves as a transformation partner on companies' sustainable growth journeys, collaborating with clients, communities, and ecosystems to create the best solutions for people, purpose and profit, and our planet.
At Oslo Business Forum, Cecilia discussed the importance of developing and executing an effective sustainability strategy and the key capabilities leaders need to do so.
Two simple questions on sustainability
Cecilia opened by asking leaders at Oslo Business Forum two simple questions:
- Does your company have a clear strategy on sustainability, climate, and how to get to net zero?
- How confident are you in that strategy?
After seeing the number of hands raised in response to question two, Cecilia observed, "You have a lot of work to do."
In a recent survey probing leaders regarding sustainability, 97% of respondents said their businesses have felt the negative impacts of climate change, and 88% said they believe they can take immediate action to move toward an improved future.
While the survey respondents expressed concern about the impacts of climate change, and 45% said they see long-term opportunities in shareholder returns resulting from their sustainability efforts, only 19% reported that they are implementing basic initiatives.
"The big problem is that not enough is happening to really make an impact," said Cecilia.
Cecelia described that there are both easy and difficult aspects of sustainability. "Sustainable materials, energy efficiency, green tech, travel training," she said. "That's what we're all working on."
The more difficult part is implementing sustainable supply chains, developing new products, services, and business models in sustainable ways, and tying executive compensation to sustainability. Moving the needle in these areas will require leaders to hone several key capabilities.
The key leadership capabilities
Cecilia believes the leaders positioned to make the biggest impact on sustainability share several key traits. They are:
- Energizing. They set out a purpose, create a vision, and inspire employees. These leaders recognize the need for psychological safety and an inclusive culture that fosters an environment in which people can succeed.
- Empowering. They leave behind command and control in favor of giving people the ability to build for the future. These leaders enable teams to innovate and make bold decisions that can change the shape of the business.
- Connecting. They influence stakeholders, shareholders, and even competitors. These leaders address all parts of sustainability, including taking a stand on the social aspect of ESG.
- Competing. They bring in new revenue and profits in a more sustainable way. These leaders look beyond surface-level sustainability efforts to transform transportation fleets, supply chains, and products that create new revenue streams.
"If you really want to be a sustainable leader," said Cecilia. "You cannot say that you're making profits and at the same time harm the planet and people."
In our current age of excellence, Cecilia believes leaders must maintain focus by:
- Looking ahead. Look at the future of your business and your industry. What kind of business models are in the future, and is your five-year plan enough?
- Look inside. Identify the opportunity spaces in your company and look inside yourself. How can you innovate? Do you, as a leader, have the necessary capabilities?
- Look around. Harness the power of your ecosystem. Where can you engage with and meet new people who are aligned with or willing to challenge your vision?
By building new capabilities and looking up to raise their awareness of opportunities, Cecilia believes that leaders can create better futures together.
- 45% of leaders say they see long-term opportunities in shareholder returns resulting from sustainability efforts, but only 19% report they are implementing basic initiatives.
- The leaders who will make the biggest impact on sustainability are energizing, empowering, connecting, and competing.
- Leaders must maintain a focus on sustainability by:
- Looking ahead to the future of their business and their industry.
- Looking inside at their company's opportunity spaces and their own leadership capabilities.
- Looking around to harness the power of their ecosystems.
Questions to Consider
- As a leader, do you energize and empower people to build for the future?
- Do you have the capabilities to connect and compete to achieve greater sustainability?
- Have you looked ahead to the future of your business and your industry?
- Have you looked inside to identify your business' opportunity spaces and your own capabilities?
- Have you looked around to harness the power of your ecosystem?
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