Sustainability and integrated thinking - what’s next?

29 July 2014 Written by 
Published in Integrated thinking

Taking ownership to embrace sustainability[1] is a given for an enlightened company;

and it will take it a step further to manage the risks and capitalise on the opportunities. Building a sustainable ecosystem represents a paradigm shift and an opportunity to satisfy unmet needs.

Making sustainability a core theme in the integrated thinking process is imperative. Equally crucial is to establish a communication channel and making efforts to listen to feedback. If sincerely carried out, a company will gain the trust of its stakeholders and set in motion a positive virtuous cycle to sustainable value creation. Needless to state, the successful adoption of such a strategy requires unwavering support from the highest level of authority within an organisation.[2]

In the initial phase, it will / may hurt the bottom line. If well executed, it will be a worthwhile investment resulting in better selection of choices to arrive at quality outcomes.

For the transformation to gain traction, grass-root support[3] has to be nurtured with easy to use solutions to empower the users. If it is readily available, it will be used. Existing in the marketplace are enabling solutions such as corporate workflow dynamics, management cloud computing that measure and manage nonfinancial metrics and merge financial and nonfinancial databases; models and studies for deep insights on the relationship between financial and nonfinancial drivers.

Tangible payoffs are 1) better understanding of the causal links of metrics/drivers, 2) sound, evidence based decision making, 3) a more inclusive community of receptive stakeholders, and 4) enhanced brand / image building[4].

Any company that believes it is business as usual and the occasional sugar-coated communique is sufficient to satisfy the stakeholders will discover to its discomfiture that truths have a way of surfacing at the most inopportune time. Over time such actions will erode away the stakeholders’ trust in the company.

Companies will need to create the right environment for its workforce to leverage on the prevailing technologies. The default organisational setting of the last century is top-down, functionally segregated, compliance centric[5]; and the conventional approach of rewarding people for performance is likened to pushing a string.

It has been observed that three ingredients that engage people are 1) empowerment, 2) ownership and 3) fulfilment[6], over and above mere material rewards; and the “knowledge-intensive” Web 2.0 /IOT connecting anyone and everyone, anything and everything has created a perfect environment for change to take place.

There is already a plethora of software applications that is serving this space. Management cloud computing that serves as a platform for enterprise social networking is one such example. Key features include user-friendly web sites, knowledge sharing, fast retrieval of real-time/ up-to-date information, alerts/heads-up. Conversations can then take place, so necessary for sustainable value creation.

An emerging discipline is organisational storytelling - a study of management, strategy and organization studies[7]. Coupled with conversations, an innovative approach can be mapped engaging the workforce and aligning their beliefs, attitude to the vision and strategy. We see conversations as safe rooms with enough space and time for imagination to take root. ‘Thinking-conversations’ encourage people to see things differently, and seek third alternative to ‘deadlocked’ issues[8].

The authors of One Report have “encourage[d] every reader of the book to take personal responsibility for doing whatever he or she can to make integrated reporting a social movement[9].   We care sufficiently to take up this invitation and in the next post, we will kick start the conversation-cum-storytelling journey.

In summary, companies having the wherewithal to embark on the risky journey by harnessing the collective wisdom of its human capital[10], empowering them to perform their roles and tasks, giving them access to information by plugging them to a connected world for team engagement[11]; will have a competitive edge over its peers.



[1] Have noted the ongoing discussions on the scope and definition of “sustainability”, and the approach taken here is a pragmatic, common sense one encouraging the evolution in behaviours of stakeholders. By focusing on capital providers who take a long-term view in value creation and highlighting examples of corporate leaders displaying moral fortitude when making decision with quality outcomes in mind, it is hope it raises the awareness and the subsequent adoption of integrated thinking / reporting by companies.

[2] One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy by Robert G. Eccles, Michael P. Krzus, Don Tapscott, p. 209

[3] Ibid., p. 187

[4] Ibid., p. 148




[8] - slider#2

[9] One Report: Integrated Reporting for a Sustainable Strategy, p. 224



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