As many companies have a mishmash of sustainability tactics, a truly embedded sustainability strategy is not an easy feat. Luckily the CSV process is essentially a straightforward one that contains four distinctive steps:
But how to make these four steps work in practice? In what way can companies work towards a more sustainable business model?
The relevance of social issues for a company could become clear after creating a materiality matrix made up from the relative importance of those issues to the key stakeholders and the impact of those issues on the company's business.
Customized market research can uncover and/or validate the relevance of issues. For instance, in a recent project for a fast food chain, not only its employees, suppliers and customers were asked about the relevant materialities: the franchise-holders were also included in the study. Another, less accurate but more cost effective, approach is to conduct a literature study to determine materialities of the sector that a company is in. In essence, each company is able to distill its key social issues that way. Typically, what remains is a list of 10-15 issues.
In order to construct the business case, first the issues need to be narrowed down to 3-5 touch points; those being the issues on which your company or brand wants to excel. In fact, these touch points are nothing else than differentiators of the sustainability strategy. Once the touch points are in place, the ambitions and targets need to be defined and the business case can be developed. For the development of the business case the Business Model Canvas by Osterwalder and Pigneur is a helpful tool.
This Business Model Canvas contains three areas for value creation from sustainability: eco-efficiency, innovation and customer intimacy. To approach the question of the “business case for sustainability” from a more broad and practical perspective, "revenue streams" can be defined as human capital, intellectual capital, financial capital, social (or community) capital and environmental capital. In a recent supply chain study in the catering sector, the mapping of potential value was facilitated by bringing together both customer and supplier. This enabled the allocation of value to the different players in the supply chain.
Once the touch points have been set and the targets and ambitions are defined, progress needs to be tracked through a set of KPI’s. These KPI’s are preferably a mix of both internal and external measurements, as the external measurements provide the “proof” and endorsement of the chosen sustainability strategy. Strong examples are benchmarks such as Dow Jones Sustainability Index and RepTrak – a reputation study that runs in 33 countries. For instance Telenet -supersector leader in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index- uses both to set strategic sustainability goals and track progress along the way.
To complete the circle of the Creating Shared Value process, the results of the implementation can be used to gain new insights. The repetition of level 6 and level 7 of the GLOBE-US model (see image above) will help unlock new value through evolution (iteration) as well as revolution (redesign of the business model).
If you want to know more about creating value from sustainability in your business model, please contact Jan van der Kaaij, managing partner, at firstname.lastname@example.org or call +31 6 28 02 18 80.