Seizing Opportunities and Solving Problems - Seven Smart Steps

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How is cutting-edge management practice being transformed as a consequence? Those are the questions explored in this study, through both the global survey and a series of in-depth research interviews with thought leaders and business executives. Whereas cautious adopters see the sustainability business case in terms of risk management and efficiency gains, embracer companies see the payoff of sustainability-driven management largely in intangible advantages, process improvements, the ability to innovate and, critically, in the opportunity to grow.

And the embracers, it turns out, are the highest performing businesses in the study. Who are the embracers? What do they do differently? By tracking what the embracer companies are doing that stands out from the actions of more cautious adopters — and how those strategies are paying off — this report paints a picture of what management may look like in a world increasingly driven by the sustainability agenda. Companies are committing to sustainability but investment levels vary, with companies dividing into embracers and cautious adopters. Embracer companies are implementing sustainability-driven strategies widely in their organizations and have largely succeeded in making robust business cases for their investments.

All companies — both embracers and cautious adopters — see the benefits of strategies such as improved resource efficiency and waste management.

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All companies recognize the brand-building benefits of developing a reputation for being sustainability-driven. This benefit was rated greatest by all respondents including both embracers and cautious adopters. While even embracer companies still struggle to measure financially the more intangible business benefits of sustainability strategies such as employee engagement, innovation and stakeholder appeal , these companies are nevertheless assigning value to intangible factors when forming strategies and making decisions.

Companies across all industries agree that acting on sustainability is essential to remaining competitive. Embracers are more aggressive in their sustainability spending, but the cautious adopters are catching up and increasing their commitments at a faster rate than the embracers. The sustainability-driven management approaches of embracer companies — which claim to be gaining competitive advantage via sustainability — exhibit seven shared traits that together suggest how sustainability may alter management practice for all successful companies in the future.

While many wondered whether the economic downturn would push sustainability off the corporate agenda, our survey results indicate that the exact opposite is true. In fact, a growing number of companies are now increasing their investments in sustainability. The numbers become even more striking when companies look ahead. Moreover, our survey shows that enthusiasm for sustainability is growing across all industries, particularly in commodities, chemicals, consumer products, industrial goods and machinery retail companies, as well as conglomerates.

Such enthusiasm appears to have survived not only the downturn but also the distinct lack of progress toward international agreement on how to combat climate change. Given Climategate and the failure of Copenhagen, many expected that corporate interest in and commitment to sustainability would decline, but companies continue to launch new sustainability programs every day. In some ways, sustainability is a repackaging of more traditional approaches to lean manufacturing and running an efficient organization.

For Clorox, it was an entry point into sustainability.

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The projects have so far generated about , megawatt hours of cumulative energy savings a year. Companies are also recognizing the benefits of driving resource efficiencies outside their own four walls and into those of their suppliers. Unilever, for example, is producing laundry products that use less water in rinsing, generating considerable water savings for the people to whom it sells its products. However, while resource efficiency is a good way to start out on a sustainability strategy, our report reveals a striking difference between two groups of companies in how they are incorporating sustainability into their business operations — those whose activities are limited to short-term, strictly measurable investments such as resource efficiency and those that say they have established a business case for sustainability, have put it permanently on their agenda and maintain that it is necessary to remain competitive.

The philosophies, commitments, strategies and actions of these two broad groups of companies — those that have embraced sustainability the embracers and those that have not the cautious adopters — differ on many points. More embracers, for example, tend to have recognized the potential for sustainability strategies to deliver new customers for their goods and services as well as to increase their market share and profit margins in existing markets.

And when it comes to views on the relationship between sustainability and competitiveness, the views of the embracers diverge even more markedly from those of cautious adopters, with a far larger proportion of embracers seeing sustainability strategies as a means of gaining competitive edge than cautious adopters.

Of course, being an embracer need not mean that a company is embracing every aspect of sustainability. Depending on their sector and business activities, companies can be embracers and drive the agenda of individual topics within sustainability. When, in both and , respondents picked the companies they considered world-class in sustainability, several moved position in the space of the year, with Toyota falling from second to third place in the ranking no doubt driven down by the recall of the Prius and other models and Shell falling from fifth position to seventh in , possibly as a result of the drop in respect for oil companies following the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

If big-headline news stories can hurt leading brands, they are also facing a reputation landscape that has become more risky, since the instant and global nature of online communications means grassroots activists, bloggers and disgruntled consumers now have the tools to make their voices powerful. And as the world becomes more developed, growing numbers of its population have access to communications technology, increasing expectations of transparency.

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Stuart Hart, SC Johnson chair in sustainable global enterprise and professor of management and organizations at Cornell University School of Management, cites the recent woes of companies such as Toyota and BP. In short, unless reality matches rhetoric, making sustainability claims is a risky business. Moreover, views differed among senior leaders when we asked them about the challenges of making the business case for sustainability. While all companies struggle with quantifying the return on their sustainability investments, in the case of the embracers, this does not dampen their enthusiasm.

And while embracers are working to develop the kind of quantification practices that will help link their sustainability activities to the bottom line, they also demonstrate a characteristic not seen among cautious adopters — the readiness to take a leap of faith. Besides being distinguished by their approach to sustainability, the embracers are also distinguished from the cautious adopters by structural characteristics such as size and sector. For a start, embracers tend to be found among large global or regional companies.

In addition, embracers tend to be part of resource-intensive industries. That is perhaps unsurprising since heavy industries have larger environmental footprints than sectors such as media, technology, financial services and health care. Heavy industries must also tackle a business risk not faced by service industry companies, and that is the risk of losing their license to operate or being unable to win a contract in the first place. And for companies in sectors such as mining, auto manufacturing and oil and gas, investments are substantial and they cannot pick up and move elsewhere.

That means they have to think long term and adhere to a broader definition of sustainability than some companies, paying attention to human and worker rights and community health and security. Long-term thinking is also something embraced by privately held companies.

Consider New Belgium Brewing. It has invested in a water treatment plant, which has an anaerobic digester and a combined heat and power plant that recovers energy and methane and converts it into electrical energy. If sustainability embracers tend to be larger, in heavier industries and in growing markets, these are not the only characteristics they share.

Critically, embracers not only claim that sustainability strategies are necessary to be competitive — they also believe these strategies are helping them to gain competitive advantage.

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Moreover, a larger number of cautious adopters lack confidence about their competitive position. Embracers are also confidently making the link between sustainability and profitability. Part of this is the ability to increase sales by providing new products valued by consumers who care about issues such as ethical supply chains and energy efficiency.

In some cases, the downturn has even offered companies an opportunity to sharpen their focus on areas in which sustainability can deliver competitive edge. That has given us an opportunity to really showcase the business value of sustainability … on many different levels — everything from reputation to new products and services. Duke Energy is not alone. Embracers are in fact three times as likely to believe that their sustainability decisions have been profitable. But profitability is not the only evidence of advantage seen by companies that are embracing sustainability as part of their business.

Sustainability: The 'Embracers' Seize Advantage

While cautious adopters have not moved beyond considerations of cost cutting and risk management, embracers have identified a range of drivers that support their sustainability-related investments. These include increased margins or market share, greater potential for innovation in their business models and processes and access to new markets. The corporate leaders we interviewed told us the same thing.

And with investment coordination, we could claim a greater share. But while Robins is looking to claim a greater share of the market for sustainable products, companies such as HSBC and other embracers are already engaging in a significant amount of sustainability-related activities. And for HSBC, some of these activities represent disruptive rather than incremental change. For example, the bank has made a considerable investment in Better Place, the company that supplies services for electric cars. While the cautious adopters focus on efficiency, risk mitigation and regulatory compliance, the embracers say they are engaged in a range of activities, including sustainability analysis.

Embracers say, for example, that they are analyzing the risks associated with not fully addressing sustainability issues. They are also assessing the expectations of investors and other stakeholders with respect to sustainability issues, including these issues in scenario planning and strategic analysis. Meanwhile, larger embracer companies tend to pay more attention to the regulatory environment and the concerns of investors. Some are also looking ahead to try to predict future regulatory changes.

She is not alone. Dove also contains palm oil, whose impacts include deforestation and destruction of the habitats of endangered species. However, the self-esteem values promoted by the brand take pressure off the palm oil issue, which is something Unilever is addressing not through branding but by shifting its supply chain away from palm oil and developing new sustainable sources of oil, such as the seeds of the Allanblackia tree, a crop the company is developing in parts of Africa.

That, he says, leads the company into the next stage: systemic change. He adds that the systemic change stage means addressing environmental issues such as the sustainability of palm oil along with other major global challenges. That, in turn, leads to consumer trust — a key component of the business for a consumer products group — and greater customer loyalty, not only in terms of the increased brand equity at a product level but also through the trust that is built at the company level.

Unilever, he says, therefore views sustainability as a key business growth lever, treated at the same level as marketing, HR or supply chain management.

In short, he says, it is a new way of doing business. Whether or not their activities are governed by climate change regulations, embracers place consideration of environmental issues at the heart of their approach to sustainability and they are much more likely to do so than cautious adopters.

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Process reimagined People and AI are reinventing business processes. For me, I use an online calendar management tool to create and stick to the following routine:. Successes to date In terms of reimagining processes, one chemical company is using a digital tool combining advanced robotics with image technology to predict the performance of marine coatings. If the dual operating system is to achieve its true potential, it must spread to the entire enterprise. This is a good choice if the effects on the project are minimal or the possibilities to influence it prove to be very difficult, time-consuming or relatively expensive.

However, senior leaders told us that the way that they include environmental issues in their business strategy has changed. For a start, they are moving away from relying on specialists to manage it. Walmart took this approach when it established 12 sustainable value networks across its business — covering everything from waste and energy reduction to sustainable products and supply chain. Each one was led not by an environmental expert but by a businessperson, so it became integrated into the business. Shifting consumer demand is another reason for the change in approach to environmental issues.

More recently, he continues, as the company began to see more external attention being placed on sustainability, the approach changed. Where companies struggle when it comes to making sustainability an integral part of the business is often not so much with the technical side of things but with the human dimension of managing it. When TD Bank introduced its sustainability policy, Pedersen says many of the issues were new to its risk committee and board. Part of this was lack of familiarity with environmental issues, something that has changed in recent years.

Since then, the company has made efforts to bring more of the staff on board to spread understanding of everything from energy markets to customer preferences. Responses from our survey suggest that, among embracers, similar strategies are being implemented. To drive sustainability internally, embracers assign managers to dedicated roles focused on sustainability and rely on line leaders and non-leadership employees more than other companies do.

While top management teams determine strategy of their organizations as a whole, executives focused on sustainability range from chief sustainability officers or managers in dedicated sustainability units to managers in certain functions, such as supply chain management or units focused on particular offerings or customers. That is reflected in corporate initiatives. For Unilever, shifting consumer demand is fueling innovation. It is interesting to note that while embracers appear to be approaching sustainability in more sophisticated ways — making a better business case for it, and integrating sustainability strategies in everything from procurement and supply chain management to marketing and brand building — they say they face just as many difficulties overcoming sustainability challenges as do the cautious adopters.

And some things are harder to measure than others. The external pressures prompting the adoption of sustainability-driven management — pressures the embracers are already noting and acting on — are increasing. First, public policy is having an effect, as governments continue to work toward carbon reduction and other targets. While much legislation remains at a national or local level, the global nature of business means local rules can be far-reaching. In Europe, for example, legislation requiring electronics producers to recycle their products at the end of their lives does not only affect European companies.

Any business wanting to sell into this market must be compliant. Second, institutional investors and pension funds are starting to look at their investments through a sustainability lens. And access to finance could also be a consideration in the future. Some banks are introducing sustainability-related loans, and even private equity firms are starting to consider the sustainability risks and opportunities in potential acquisitions.

It was designed to be able to receive two cruise ships with a capacity of up to , GT and serve up to 8, passengers at the same time. The port welcomed its first international cruise on November 27, which carried more than 2, passengers and nearly 1, crew members on board. The inauguration of the port has opened new steps for the development of Quang Ninh province, while facilitating the cooperation and development in tourism at an international level. In the common trend of digital technology, more and more Vietnamese businesses have applied technological advancements in their operations by integrating their services on mobile devices and digitalising their data to better serve customers.

Localities such as Ninh Binh and Phu Yen have developed information portals and smart travel applications on mobile devices, making it easier for vacationers to explore the localities. Despite encouraging achievements over the past few years, Vietnamese tourism has revealed certain shortcomings and limitations in its operations, which might pose difficulties for its further development in the near future.

The airports in Vietnam are overloaded. However, these airports have actually served 95 million passengers in and up to million in Meanwhile, the upgrading of the airports is sluggish. In order to remove this "bottleneck", experts have suggested that the State develops a solution to encourage the private sector to participate in building new airports, and upgrading the infrastructure of current ones.

In an effort to address the problems, the Prime Minister had just approved a project to restructure the tourism sector, which focuses on potential markets and developing human resources, in early December. Furthermore, the sector hopes to serve 32 million foreign tourists and more than million domestic visitors.

The tourism product system is expected to be shaped, and smart tourism will be applied widely. The Government pledges to create favourable conditions for visa policy, facilitating aviation industry, attracting FDI investment into tourism sector in order to bring into full play the available advantages of the natural resources and heritage values.

The Prime Minister also approved a master plan on the use of information technology in promoting tourism from — , with a vision to The plan aims to create a digital database of tour guides, travel agencies, hotels and lodging providers nationwide, as well as of tourist complexes and destinations and tourists by A range of mobile applications will be developed to provide tourists with all they need to know about the tourist destinations and tourist services and products, while audio guides will also be available in popular languages.

By , Vietnam will develop a smart eco-tourism environment in tandem with smart cities and foster the use of artificial intelligence, virtual assistants and other advanced technology to better serve tourists and support the operations of tour operators and tourism authorities. Developing tourism requires not only the efforts of those working in the sector alone but also the intense involvement of the relevant agencies such as aviation, customs, trade and tariff system, as well as the business community and the entire society.

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