Organisations are increasingly recognising the opportunities for competitive advantage the move to sustainability offers in terms of reducing costs and risks; developing new revenue streams and protecting existing ones; enhancing brand; retaining/attracting staff; and maintaining their licence to operate.
Building sustainable organisations requires considerable organisational change. But it also puts particular demands on leaders who have to embrace new ways of seeing and thinking, let go of outdated mindsets, develop a sustainability vision, and develop new ways of leading.
At Jericho Partners we use our Renewal framework to deliver Sustainability Coaching. The framework emphasises that sustainable change only occurs when:
- both the organisation and the individuals in it change
- these changes for the organisation and the individuals occur through engaging with their internal worlds and their external environments
- organisations manage today's business while simultaneously creating tomorrow's technology and markets; individuals perform today while simultaneously developing the competencies and qualities to perform in the emrging future.
Coaching for leaders taking their organisations on the journey to sustainability therfore focuses on four territories of leadership:
- Insight: Insight involves looking out into the world, seeing what is, and making sense of it. The increasingly complex, fast changing and unpredictable environment makes this an ever more difficult task. Yet the interconnections between business, technology, environment and society mean organisations are affected by changes that a few decades ago would have had little impact. So making sense of the world and understanding the context in which the company and its people operate is a vital leadership task - and the first step to Sustainability Leadership. Leaders need to understand the political, environmental, social and technological factors which affect their organisation; they need to recognise the impact these will have; and they need to reflect on the implications fo the changes they will cause. Coaching in this territory supports the leader in seeing systemically; in focusing on relationships between events as well the events themselves; and on seeing their organisation's relationship to and place in the wider ecosystem;
- Readiness: It is one thing to see what is going on in the world - it is quite another to create the personal freedom and space from which to respond to it. Many people 'saw' the recent recession coming, yet few had the courage and personal flexibility to be able to respond creatively. Instead they joined in the collective denial. Many of us are now doing the same with climate change, species extinction, pollution and social injustice to name but some. Seeing reality is not enough - we have to allow ourselves to be affected by what we see. We need to be willing to stop deceiving ourselves and to admit to the harm we are doing to the environment, to the oppressed, and ultimately to ourselves. This is a difficult journey but one that can be extraordinarily empowering. It involves understanding the personal and cultural factors that hold us in old ways of behaving, engaging with the challenges and opportunities the world is presenting, and then developing the necessary personal freedom and flexibility to be able to take effective action. We move from seeing ourselves as a separate self, though being a social self to recognising our ecological self.
- Vision: The combination of greater Readiness and a greater Insight into what is being - and more importantly will be - demanded by stakeholders, creates the space to envision a future for the organisation. This authentic vision arises out of the leader's personal values and out of their insight into what the world needs that the organisation can or could provide. This in turn provides the context within which the leader can envision a vibrant and realistic picture of who they can be in enabling the organisation to fulfill the vision. The coach helps the leader intuit what their calling as a leader is; develop their sense of purpose and purposefulness; and create an incesaingly tangible vision. Visual Landscaping may be used to support this process and help in developing specific leadership strategies.
- Action: With a vision of their role, the leader then has to embody the future they are leading the organisation towards. Since the organisational vision will often be stretching to force the organisation to travel outside its comfort zone to innovate solutions, the leader too will need to be willing to operate outside their comfort zone. Being seen to represent and embody the organisational vision consistently is vital to success and coaching provides the space to develop and practice the behaviours.
As well as managing themselves through the transition to leading a sustainable organisation, leaders must ensure that their organisation also makes its journey to sustainablility. Thus the coaching also supports leaders and their teams in working in the four territories of organisational effectiveness:
- Insight: assessing the organisation's environmental and social footprint; limiting resource use; recognising stakeholder demands; developing metrics to gauge progress; selecting suppliers who also value sustainability; protecting and growing the brand; understanding the threats and opportunities arising from climate change, resource limits (energy, water, minerals), pollution (air, groundwater), species loss, population increase, and social injustice.
- Readiness: creating internal alignment around the need for change; helping people let go of the mindsets of the Industrial Growth society; building a sustainability-oriented culture; reducing waste; improving the resource productivity of the business; reducing environmental and regulatory burdens; tending the organisational ecosystem.
- Vision: creating a shared vision and intent for a sustainable business; developing the future competencies necessary; developing environmental strategies that provide added degrees of freedom to operate, profit, and grow; exploring new opportunities for product and service innovation.
- Action: building a shared roadmap for the actions necessary to create a sustainable organisation and ecosystem; partnering with NGOs and other stakeholders; delivering innovative solutions that meet real societal needs; rewarding eco-action; ensuring that environmental thinking informs every decision.