Winning Sustainability Strategies

Executing Change to Drive ESG Performance

Co-authored by Jan van der Kaaij, Managing Partner at Finch & Beak, and Benoit Leleux, Stephan Schmidheiny Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance at business school IMD, Winning Sustainability Strategies (Palgrave, 2019) is a book that offers practical suggestions for improved effectiveness of sustainability strategies based upon practitioner cases and data analysis from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.

Contrary to popular belief and the optimism generated by the ambitious global targets set in the Paris Agreement and the UNs Sustainable Development Goals, the implementation of corporate sustainability programs has been slow at best, sloppy and ineffective at worst. Less than a third of global companies have developed clear business cases or supported value propositions for their approaches to sustainability. With many initiatives stuck in storytelling or cherry-picking mode, the need for the executive level to start thinking about transformation towards a more sustainable business model is rising as rapidly as the levels of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere. Winning Sustainability Strategies inspires companies towards a more effective design and implementation of sustainability programs based upon a stronger sense of focus dubbed "Vectoring".

New skills, competences and tools for executives

Companies and executives need to develop a new sense of urgency when it comes to sustainability, moving it from the realm of compliance to that of a key driver of performance and innovation, which requires imbedding it deeply into their core strategies. Partnering capabilities are becoming essential to develop circular economy business models that are viable. And crossing the chasm in this case requires education, new skills, competences and tools.

Vectoring: the design of award-winning sustainability strategies

Capitalizing on the experience of a large collection of award-winning sustainability champions, such as DSM, Patagonia, Unilever, Umicore and Novozymes, and years of experience consulting with executive teams and companies effecting similar changes, Winning Sustainability Strategies reveals how to design and implement a stronger sense of focus and obtain more forward thrust in sustainability programs. This proven combination of direction and speed is dubbed “Vectoring”.

It is analogous to the navigation service provided by an air traffic controller, whereby the controller decides on a particular path for the aircraft, composed of specific legs or vectors, which the pilot then follows. Sustainability programs that are looking for their North Star or Polaris, can lack air traffic controllers or often pilots for that matter. The absence of directional bearings, or the selection of inadequate ones, lead to misguided, uncoordinated actions and usually unsatisfactory results from sustainability initiatives.




To develop the concept of Vectoring, practitioner cases from sustainability leaders were examined in depth together with the anonymized results from ten selected industries in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) benchmark between 2015 to 2017 from automotive, banking, chemicals, construction materials, electric utilities, pharmaceuticals, food products, professional services, textiles and telecom.

A practical framework

Based upon practitioner cases as well as big data analysis from the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, Winning Sustainability Strategies offers a practical framework as well as access to a range of DIY resources for identifying the relative performance of sustainability programs, how to identify and locate inhibitors and how to overcome them. The framework, and its associated four fundamental archetypes, delivers valuable insights for sustainability practitioners and C-suite executives.

A key strategic tool

As such, vectoring becomes a key strategic tool with numerous applications, such as:

  • Designing and executing new sustainability programs
  • Embedding the UN Sustainable Development Goals into the company’s core strategy
  • Assessing the impact of sustainability programs on competitiveness and valuation.

The ultimate objective of vectoring is to provide a clear, potent framework that offers directions for executives to help shift their companies from integrated reporting to truly integrated sustainability thinking.

"This book is a valuable compass for companies intending to capture opportunities inherent in a sustainable business strategy and operating model. It also educates investors who want to understand why companies embrace and actively manage financially material ESG topics."

- Daniel Wild, PhD - Former Co-CEO, RobecoSAM


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