Who’s Leading the Transformation Towards Sustainability? Who’s Killing it?

hao2Coming back home from Sustainably Brands Barcelona 2016 Conference, Eleven is still thinking about the workshop she participated, as well as the rest part of the first half of the two-day event.

hao1Eleven felt happy, not because the topic of the conference was sustainability, not because speakers and their companies were super interesting, but because she heard something not just in one-way direction—she heard honest opinions and discussion, and finally, sustainability isn’t just a beautiful concept to showcase customers, nor a fairytale hung up on company websites, but an internalized organization code of behavior that influences company strategy, structural decision, and all the key stakeholders.

Sustainability isn’t just a beautiful concept to showcase customers, nor a fairytale hung up on company websites, but an internalized organization code of behavior that influences company strategy, structural decision, and all the key stakeholders.

Sustainability is not about planting trees every year or donating to underprivileged counties, but about keep developing what you do for a living, and do it in a sustainable way. Acciona and Lego have given us the best examples in this sense: construction company reconstructed the ancient museum into a stable building carrying both the modern architecture standards and historical heritage; same as Lego encourages customers to recycle Legos and reduce waste— When you see a company selling new products while motivating customers to keep using the old ones all the time, you know they mean it when claiming that they care about environmentally sustainability.

During the 100-minute workshop, people from
different organizations sit in groups and
discussed the problems that attracted them the most, and then shared with each other. Problems are always related to each other one way or another when it comes to the implementation of innovation or a sustainable transformation within any organization. Most of the people at the workshop have never met each other before, but everyone opened up with their insights: some were good practice or guidance, some were lessons and learnings.

Who’s leading the transformation, and who’s killing it? How to tackle problems coming from top-down operation, and how to give full trust and space to bottoms-up reforms? How to balance tangible of intangible resources between short-run business and long-term big picture? How can industrial benchmark help motivate leadership to make a decisive step forward? All the questions above actually answered the questions set initially on each table, yet new questions always come along again. From another perspective, perhaps that is exactly how continuous improvement come true and how sustainability is achieved eventually.

Eleven cannot wait to see what tomorrow’s session would bring to her already!

Hao Zheng, SB Barcelona 2016 Volunteer, MBA Class of 2017, IESE Business School