Towards Sustainability: We Are The Watchdogs

SAP’s Amit Chatterjee points out that corporations are spending real money on this new-fangled sustainability thing. Dollars spent is always an interesting metric. You don’t pay McKinsey money to help you write a corporate social responsibility report. You bring them in to redesign parts of your business. This is a new kind of business process re-engineering (BPR), with a new focus, and new concepts of efficiency. Why is Greenmonk interested? Because the focus is on behavioural change.

“During the presentation, it was clear that there was a significant need for changing behavior.  I was trying to determine how long it would take to make this trend a reality vs. short-term FAD status.  Then I was hit with the most interesting stat of the whole presentation.  Another director of the Firm announced that McKinsey was currently serving 20 of the Fortune 100 around establishing or building out their corporate sustainability program.

Ladies and gentlemen, CSM has arrived.  Basically, when a large corporation is willing to hire McKinsey brainpower (which does not come cheap) to establish a strategy, it is no longer a fad, but a true initiative for change within an organization.  Thus marks the arrival of CSM into our lexicon as a legitimate method for competitive advantage or lever for shareholder value.  This is truly exciting news.”

I wrote about Amit and SAP’s Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) strategy a while ago over at Monkchips. I called GRC the new ERP. Well folks, what did ERP support? First wave BPR. What are we now facing? Sustainable BPR… Another wave of change.

Although this discussion may seem to be top down, and therefore not “green from the roots up”, and therefore outside Greenmonk’s remit, any successful organisational behaviour change is going to need bottom up commitments and ideas. BT, for example, uses blogging and local team leads to encourage bottom up eco-innovation. Social software is going to play a crucial role in any successful sustainability strategy.

Thomas also picked up the theme (he has been dragging me into the corporate social responsibility space, helping me to understand its more than platitudes):

“I don’t want auditors crawling all over sustainability, but I do want to know that the stuff in the annual report and elsewhere is relevant and material. I want to know who is serious and who is bs’ing me. I worry about greenwash.”

Anyone that cares worries about greenwash, which is why we all need to engage with this stuff. The more engaged we are the harder it is for big companies to fool us. As investors, citizens, employees, customers we have to be the watchdogs. We can’t assume someone else will do that job for us. The responsibility is ours. That’s green from the roots up.

picture courtesy of Frankie Roberto.

disclosure: SAP is a client of RedMonk, the industry analyst company I co-founded.