In September 2015, I had the pleasure of attending a lecture by South African author Wayne Visser. The lecture started with an interesting timeline of the development of sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility. He then presented a model to create integrated value, his vision of the future of this movement. This blog post is about his 25th book “Sustainable Frontiers”, which covers the timeline and the integrated value road-map in more detail.
Abolishing the S-word
In the introduction, he argues that sustainability is many things, but not an effective strategy for change. He claims that “the sustainability movement has failed to understand what it means to be human”. So he calls for a switch of focus and vocabulary, urging us to realize that change is all about human connection, and that our common goal is to thrive, rather than to sustain or survive.
The keys to change in Wayne’s world
In eight chapters, the book outlines the keys to change that will unlock the potential of business to redefine its why, to regain its original role of adding value to society.
- Transformational leadership: sustainability superheroes willing to take a long-term perspective, ready to reshape business and regain the trust of the public through big beliefs, blue sky thinking, burning platforms and baby steps.
- Enterprise reform: rethinking business by breaking through the paradigm of profit as the sole purpose of business, by integrating cooperation (rather than competition) as the law of the market, and by seeing business as a human institution rather than a rational machine.
- Technology innovation: booming and shifting towards more circular and sustainable solutions to solve food waste, water management, resource management and energy challenges.
- Corporate transparency: rising corporate accountability to restore lower levels of trust in corporations; fueled by social media, reporting legislation, reporting standards, rating agencies and a shift from a narrow corporate focus to value chain inclusion.
- Stakeholder engagement: from broadcast marketing to (web-enabled) dialogue, feedback and increased understanding, and increasingly crowd-sourcing, co-creation and collaboration.
- Social responsibility: an evolution through the ages of greed, philanthropy, marketing, management and responsibility – with corresponding stages of corporate social responsibility: defensive, charitable, promotional, strategic and transformative.
- Integrated value: a call for greater integration and an expanded role for business to create positive impacts; driving change through stakeholder materiality, integrated risk, critical processes, innovation, systems alignment and review mechanisms.
- Future-fitness: a future where our products, organizations, communities, cities and countries are safe, connected, equitable, satisfy our human needs and operate within the limits of our planet.
Sustainable business forecast
According to Wayne Visser, in the next ten years, business will increasingly use innovation, collaboration, dialogue and transparency, global frameworks and local priorities, and circular thinking to transform their purpose and their way of work. Governments and consumers will play a role, but the true transformation will come from within companies. And as more employees know how to integrate societal issues into their work, sustainability teams in companies will start to shrink. Over time they might just disappear altogether; together with the S-word.
For more information about Wayne Visser and his work, check out his website and follow @waynevisser on Twitter. To encounter speakers like Wayne Visser in the Netherlands, check out the ImpactAcademy website.
Written by Marjolein Baghuis (@mbaghuis)