IMD News · Sustainability - Strategy

How strategy, smart investment, and personal transformation can spark positive impact

Participants at OWP delved into how to translate their sustainability ambitions into strategic execution, explored ways to overcome barriers to personal transformation, and unpicked how to unlock financial incentives through climate change markets.
3 min.
June 2022

On day three of IMD’s signature program, Orchestrating Winning Performance, participants focused on resetting for growth through sustainability and inclusion. Professor of Leadership Ben Bryant challenged executives to embrace the discomfort that change – such as a promotion at work – might bring.

“When you get into a more senior executive role, rather than experiment, you might look for replication to repeat past successes,” he said, explaining that the fear of shame, failure and loss of identity, as well as institutional dynamics, can get in the way of the personal transformation needed to be deliver impact in a new role.

To achieve real personal transformation, senior leaders need to work at sitting with and holding the discomfort that comes with change, he said. “Conflict and tension will always be a part of transformation experiences.”

Embed sustainability at the organization’s core to achieve real impact

Companies must pivot from mitigating negative impact to embedding sustainability fully in their strategies, processes, and cultures to deliver the positive impact necessary to address climate change, Professor of Strategy and Organizational Innovation Stéphane J.G. Girod told participants.

During his OWP session exploring how to formulate and execute sustainability strategies for positive impact, Girod said it was dangerous for companies to “stagnate in corporate social responsibility”, where firms focus on mitigating negative impact, because “at this pace, there won’t be anything left”.

“Strategy is about making choices and priorities,” he said. “You can’t follow every pain point – this is where you are going to prioritize. Once you prioritize, you are going to really embed that, and that becomes your strategy.”

Girod said companies could not rely on factors such as the strength of their brand as the attitudes of consumers, employees and investors evolved in favor of positive impact and sustainability.

“If the criteria of desirability of the brand changes, no matter how strong your heritage is, it’s not going to be sufficient,” he said. “Your brand heritage may not be sufficient to survive.”

Big returns await the right carbon credit approach

There are significant rewards available for those who come up with the right financial incentives and business models related to the market for carbon credits, explained Professor of Finance Karl Schmedders.

“We’re not designing the world from scratch, and we aren’t living in a perfect world. We need incentives to change behavior, and must understand what makes different people tick,” he told participants in his session exploring ways to offset emissions in the context of internal carbon pricing.

“Taking the attitude of ‘we are not going to do anything until 2030’ is dangerous,” he added. “Other people have plans at least in the drawer.”

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