Embedding a Sustainability Strategy Is Also a "Bottom-Up" Exercise

Corporate strategy professionals, myself included, are often trained to think "top-down".  Good corporate strategy development happens often with a "top-down" helicopter view of the markets and the business. Resource allocation decisions, performance management systems, and senior talent strategy, together with strategy development are the three other significant levers used in business to drive top-down strategic change in a corporation.    

Sustainability and ESG (as is the case for Corporate Strategy) are often treated in a similar fashion - a sustainability strategy is devised with input from senior stakeholders and external parties,  it is then "given teeth" via top-down capital allocation decisions made by senior management, via changes to management incentives to incorporate tracking of delivery against sustainability objectives in tandem with financial objectives, and via more significant efforts to report progress against these metrics externally.   

All of the above are significant pieces of the puzzle, but perhaps a  critical piece is missing - significant cultural and mindset change amongst rank and file employees.  A deliberate approach for employee education, motivation, and engagement can, over time, change the fabric of an organisation in more fundamental ways that can outlive a leadership team.  

The below article, which deals more specifically with enterprise risk management, suggests that app-based technology that connects all employees and allows them to share and upload questions or observations linked to decisions they have to make in every day life, can be a powerful engagement (or risk management) tool, if deployed as part of a more structured approach at culture change.  The article speaks very helpfully about the importance of creating consistent psychologically safe spaces where employees can discuss issues related to enterprise risk management.   I couldn't agree more, and believe the same dynamic may also be relevant to sustainability - as an embedded sustainability mindset requires all individuals in a business to consider trade-offs (some of which may be difficult) when dealing with customers, with suppliers, and with their colleagues.  Lasting embedding of a sustainability mindset is also a "bottom-up" exercise, and a systematic approach at culture change, with or without the help of technology, must be part of the answer. 

Link: https://hbr.org/2021/01/when-every-employee-is-a-risk-manager