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Vision, Mission, Values: Guideposts To Sustainability

Philip H. Mirvis, B. Googins, Sylvia Kinnicutt
Published 2010 · Economics

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Over 75 percent of executives worldwide say they believe that sustainability is important to the financial success of their companies but, as of 2010, only around 30—40 percent are taking serious steps to embed it into their business practices. Why the significant gap? One reason is that many companies don’t have a clear or agreed to view on sustainability. Some define it narrowly with regard to environmental performance: their greenhouse gas emissions, energy use, waste management, and the like. Interestingly, those that take it seriously typically have a more expansive and integrative perspective that links environmental, societal and governance (ESG) responsibilities together into an overall sustainability agenda (sometimes joined under the names of corporate responsibility, social responsibility, or corporate citizenship). A second reason for the gap is that there is no alignment across the business on who is responsible for environmental, social, and governance issues or agreement on how to handle them. For example, are concerns raised about the wages, working, and living conditions of contract employees in a remote supply chain a human resource (HR) or corporate social responsibility (CSR) matter? Shouldn’t the health, safety, and environmental people be involved, too, because of questions about the safety of factories and cleanliness of water in the nearby community? And what about the legal department to ensure compliancewith industry codes? At this point, individual staff units are often overwhelmed by the interrelated issues, opportunities, and threats and the majority of companies have no policies or the silo-busting machinery in place to pull together a coordinated response. A third reason for the gap is that many companies simply don’t make a strong commitment to sustainability. As a result, competing priorities intervene; short-term profit pressures supersede good intentions; and sustainability efforts slow down, are marginalized, or are limited to a few ‘‘quick wins’’ with little more to follow. As one executive we talked to explained it, ‘‘We have lots of initiatives,
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