Africa Business Communities

[Column] Tracy Bolton: How to build a sustainable business in 2022

As our fragile planet experiences unprecedented man-made changes to its climate, organisations are being challenged to move onto a more sustainable path in 2022.

A 2021 report by the IPCC called a ‘code red for humanity‘ in light of the sweeping changes to our natural environment that will have as-yet undetermined – but almost certainly severely adverse – effects on humankind’s way of life.

Organizations across Africa will have to take bold steps to limit harmful activities and mitigate the impact of a changing climate.

Modern businesses have to be both profitable and sustainable, and put people, the planet and profit on equal footing. Sustainability is a team sport, though. A vibrant ecosystem of likeminded innovators and business leaders is the best approach to achieving sustainability goals.

Sustainability high on corporate agenda

A Harvard Business Review study of more than 300 directors in 43 countries found that three-quarters of respondents recognise climate change and sustainability as very important to their organizations’ strategic success.

SAP recently announced that it is accelerating its global sustainability targets by striving to achieve net-zero emissions across its value chain by 2030, a full two decades ahead of the original 2050 target. In addition, the company has enhanced its role as an enabler of sustainability by introducing a new suite of technology tools and best practices that can help companies accelerate their sustainability efforts.

There is no question that an accelerated drive toward sustainability will have a dramatic positive impact on people and the planet. Viewing sustainability as an added cost to business is incorrect. It is a competitive advantage and one of the greatest economic opportunities of our time. However, many business leaders simply don’t know where to start on their journey toward a more sustainable path.”

Tips for building sustainable organizations

Bolton provides tips to African organizations for embedding sustainability in their operations.

Step 1: Plan: You first need to decide what your sustainability strategy is. For some it is enough to simply do the bare minimum in order to remain compliant. Other organisations may want to embed sustainability in their processes to create efficiency and drive profitability. A growing number of organisations, however, use sustainability as a driving force to innovate and build desirability with eco-conscious consumers who are happy to pay more for a product or service if it is truly environmentally-friendly.

Step 2: Benchmark: It’s important to get a baseline knowledge of your organisation’s current level of sustainability. Use analytics to generate insights from your primary and secondary data relating to your ESG efforts, especially as they relate to Governance, Planet & Climate Change, People and Prosperity.

Step 3: Focus: Once organisations know their current state, it is vital they choose where to focus their sustainability efforts to gain maximum benefit. Decide where you want to focus and implement real-time tracking of your progress against your success metrics. This will enable effective decision-making throughout your sustainability journey.

Step 4: Tell: When organisations change their operations and processes to become more sustainable, it can have a direct impact on their employees, partners and suppliers. Ensure you communicate regularly and transparently with everyone in your organisation as well your partners and suppliers to ensure everyone across your supply chain is on board.

Step 5: Measure: There’s an old adage that states ‘you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and this rings true for sustainability efforts. Monitor your progress and make changes in a pragmatic and systematic way. Becoming more sustainable is a journey that requires you take consistent and regular steps forward.

Tracy Bolton is the Chief Operating Officer at SAP Africa


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