A recent study showed something I had suspected, but without having any hard facts to back it up. Jadena Bechtel (who used to work at Campana & Schott), and Alexander Kock published an award-winning paper. The two researchers, affiliated with the Technical University of Darmstadt, determined empirically that businesses that incorporate sustainability goals into their project portfolio management are not only more innovative, but also more successful in economic terms. But this effect only arises if executives lead by example in embracing sustainability and the relevant goals are communicated clearly.
The study considered three different levels: strategic, cultural, and structural.
- At the strategic level, it is important for employees to understand the significance of sustainability. This is the first step in identifying products and services that can be designed and produced not only better, but also more sustainably.
- Culturally, it is crucial for businesses to offer their employees opportunities for active participation. Personally, I’m a big fan of Sustainability Communities, which can be realized in Microsoft Teams, for example. This is a highly popular way to engage in dialogue, get organized, and contribute. If the notion of sustainability has been communicated understandably, this makes it possible to fully incorporate it into the corporate culture.
- Ultimately, executives have to walk the walk. At the structural level, decision makers should track KPIs that let them see the extent to which sustainability is in fact being implemented in ongoing projects. To do this, I recommend requesting an assessment of Sustainability Impacts every time a new project is being approved in the future.