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Now I am no anthropologist….

but it seems clear to me that linking brands our survival instinct and protecting the “clan” is quite a bit stronger than the more superficial “I want to be sexy or manly” approach. Clan-like devotion to some brands hints at this power and an increasing number of companies are associating with these instinctive values. Sustainability consumers favor Timberland shoes, for example, because they source and then transparently report on the sustainability merits of inputs and processes employed to make the shoe. Consumers buy organic food not just for the obvious health benefits, but because they help the environment, usually support local farmers and local economic activity, and is often sold in small producer markets creating social connections and great good will!

Just as a poor cane cutter in Brazil may prize his Ferrari polo shirt, millions of consumers are willing to pay more for the experiences and emotional stimulation buying sustainability can provoke. Even consumers who make only the occasional sustainability-related purchase are buying a deeply moving personal experience.

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 Sustainability Arbitrage….

The familiar marketing terms greenwashing and bluewashing refer to a company stretches the truth about their environmental and humanitarian performance past the point of credibility. The advent of rigorous sustainability reporting has discouraged this practice greatly in recent years, but not so Sustainability Value Arbitraging.

Strategic sustainability arbitraging is when a company makes PR hay and disproportionate value creation on the back of modest non-material efforts such as a non-core business related donations program all the while not attending to material negative impacts. It’s like a company which rallies employees around cancer charities meanwhile supporting processes, products and encouraging lifestyles that are possible contributory cause to…. cancer.

Beware, sustainability materiality reporting is nigh….


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Sustainability Strategy Dream Team

Most companies are only part way towards conceiving the need for an integrated sustainability strategy let alone developing one.  For those who get sustainability, game changing opportunities abound just as they did when Ford introduced the production line, Taylor developed management efficiency concepts, or when Jobs married design, function, and globalized supply chains. The first scary steps into the great sustainability unknown is to leave behind the “sustainability as a cost” mentality and move resolutely towards a more collaborative value creation orientation. This will test both the traditional knowledge base and resource allocation instincts of managers, and it will challenge the small victories by tactics approach.

Sustainability strategy in the broadest sense is where “Mr. Here-and-now” strategizes with “Ms. Long-term” while talking with Mr. Innovation or, if you can imagine, Henry Ford scheming with Gro Harlem Brundtland and Steve Jobs. Thus engaged, a sustainability strategy conversation flows naturally – dare I say organically — towards the question of what sustainability can do for my company in a global economy of growing scarcity, resource conflict and internet driven social

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Sustainability Leadership & The Vision Collaborative

20th century leadership was about the individual. The great general, the great politician, the great union leader etc. The hyper connected 21st century exposed two fatal flaws with this belief-cum-practice.

One…it’s the vision that moves people not the person.

Two…if we do not see ourselves all as leaders we easily fall prey to becoming sheepish followers (and we know where that gets us…..).

A visionary leader of any kind, but most especially the sustainability kind, knows in their heart effective leadership is about the collective and not individual. Not the Jean Luc Picard nemesis Borg collective. Think rather, colleagues and allies connected by a shared vision of more and better corporate sustainability.

What more and better means to a given company will differ. What shouldn’t is the purposeful tapping of collective wisdom to identify where sustainability risks and opportunities lie.

The leadership collective’s job: in the paraphrase words of the indomitable Stephen Covey – to lean the sustainability ladder “against the right wall” and then define just how high to climb.

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Just a Snicker away from more and better Corporate Sustainability …

No, not the chocolate bar, but the resonant, almost-behind-your-back chortle of the sustainability cynic.

Eager to debase your passion and plans for more and better corporate sustainability, the “Snickerer” should be your first choice for a coffee time partner. They are the font of established opinion and their hyper critical life view holds much unpleasant truth. Embrace that, and learn from them, for who best to lead you through all the barriers between you and more budget, people and passion?

Don’t let reason get the better of you either. This is reptilian brain work. Snickerers fear change, see cost everywhere but value nowhere. Creating the “connective tissues” turning adversary to collaborator takes time but can be well worth the effort. It may never happen, but you will certainly learn and grow no matter what happens.

Call one now.

See Uzzi and Dunlap in the Harvard Business Review,
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