Companies should reframe sustainability to reflect its transformative potential
When social and environmental concerns first made their way onto the corporate agenda in the 1980s, it was primarily driven by the desire to avoid accidents or scandals - often in hard-to-monitor distant markets - that might damage the brand or reputation of the company. Sustainability remains to some extent tainted by that heritage.
It retains a defensive connotation and companies tend to concentrate mainly on what could go wrong and how to avoid attracting the attention of regulators or NGOs. Framing sustainability as a "challenge" only reinforces that negative impression. Companies need to move beyond this focus on risk, constraints and compliance.