When going through risk assessment procedures regarding environmental hazards, it's important to go one step further to ensure sustainable business practices. Incorporating sustainability was the top obstacle for businesses for the third year in a row with 62 percent of survey takers saying it was their biggest leadership challenge, according to the State of Sustainable Business Survey for 2013 conducted by BSR and GlobeScan. Sustainability professionals often find it difficult to change the attitudes of the company's leadership, such as by swaying their leaders to believe sustainability has a major impact.
"Convincing leadership of the value of integrating sustainability and changing management mentality are the most commonly mentioned barriers," the report stated. "This may be a result of other mentioned barriers, such as the difficulty in demonstrating the value of integrating sustainability, especially when there are financial constraints and where profit is prioritized over sustainability."
Harvard Business Review cautions businesses that they will have to eventually change the minds of their leaders in order for sustainability to grow on a larger scale. Leaders might see business as separate from nature, as social and ecological factors cannot be quantified as much as revenue and other concrete indications of business growth. To change this mindset, corporate sustainability leaders might have to use analytical tools and models along with contextual understanding to ensure sustainability initiatives are successful.
Achieving sustainability initiatives
Despite this challenge, some businesses have had successfully integrated sustainability within their business and its operations. In the survey, 53 percent of companies had moderate integration while 23 percent were able to achieve significant integration in 2013.
This year, companies were most likely to engage in supply management and workers' rights-related issues, especially those who live in developing countries. As for trends in sustainable business management for next year, companies predict that climate change and water management will have the biggest impacts.
Initiatives regarding sustainability have also had trouble engaging workers. In the area of corporate finance, 16 percent of respondents said they reach out to their co-workers about this. Despite this, there appears to be a high level of engagement with corporate communications with 75 percent of participants saying they interact with these workers involved in this type of function on a regular basis.
Harvard Business Revenue recommends companies ask themselves what insights and practices can galvanize engagement for sustainability not only within the company but also the industry. Companies could help increase efficiency and reduce the environmental footprint of their operations through sustainable sourcing, in the hope that other businesses in the industry will follow their example.