Sustainable business leaders
22 July 2022

Executive MBA participant Oxana Grishina explores how sustainability should be a priority for businesses and business leaders.

In the past 70 years, human activity has drastically changed the face of our planet. Industrialisation and unstoppable exploitation of natural resources has led to a dangerous increase of Greenhouse gases and CO2 emissions. Our global temperature has risen over 1.5 degrees, more frequent and devastating natural disasters have killed millions of people, and many forests and wildlife species have disappeared. Children born today, do not see the diversity of wildlife, animals, and plants their grandparents and parents had access to only 20 years ago.
The current speed of global warming is such that in the next few decades, if we don’t stop it, it will lead to irreversible changes to the human habitat, threatening humans’ existence. 

BUT

As a humble human being, I want my kids and my grandchildren to live in a cleaner, healthier, and happier world. Where diversity of species is preserved. Where snow falls in the winter and sun shines in the summer, and not the other way around. Where food is free of pesticides and tastes great. Where water is clean. Where all kids have access to education and job market. Where everyone feels safe. Where everyone can dream big and pursue their dreams freely.

AND

I firmly believe WE CAN restore and build the new world if everyone acts consciously in their lives and take some steps towards the sustainable future. In our private lives, WE CAN choose to use less polluting transportation means, recycle more plastics and clothes, reduce consumption of meat, favour local vegetable produce, and invest in renewable energy to run our houses. 

In our work lives, WE CAN promote more sustainable business solutions, challenge business leaders and ourselves to make sustainability a priority when making decisions. WE CAN challenge our governments to be bolder with legislations, prioritise the sustainability initiatives and be more strategic and long-term focused. 

According to United Nations “Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In other words, sustainability is a way of thinking and doing things to satisfy our needs today whilst considering the long-term well-being of our children and future generations. Sustainability is not only a worry for governments or not-for-profit organisations, but it increasingly has become a prerogative for businesses too.

17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) defined by UN provide a broad strategic direction to governmental, private, and public organisations to develop, invest and implement initiatives that would contribute to the achievement of one or more of these goals. One of these goals is Goal 13 “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts”.  Another one that is close to my heart too is Goal 11 “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”.

SDGs can help businesses to define a sustainability purpose, vision, a strategic direction and what strategic capabilities shall be exploited by an organisation to deliver solutions to environmental and social issues. 

Let’s take TIER, an e-scooter sharing service provider, who adopted SDGs as a guiding framework for action, to deliver their vision “Change mobility for good”, aiming to drive the transition towards low-carbon transport and delivering on five SDGs.

For TIER, environmental sustainability is a hygiene factor, leading the business to become the first micro-mobility operator to go climate neutral. Social sustainability is the one that the business works hard to achieve through working with city authorities to facilitate accessible mobility and providing job opportunities for local people.  Financial sustainability is fundamental for TIER to grow the business, continue to support social causes and provide reassurance to other micro-mobility providers that to run a purpose led sustainable business can be profitable. TIER has reached its profitability target before their second birthday.

This is just one of example of a new businesses that has taken the climate change problem close to their hearts and decided to be governed by the triple bottom line – Planet, People, Profit.  

Being sustainable and addressing climate change can bring multiple benefits to a business. One is the profitability improvement through re-engineering of products and processes, circular economy, costs reduction, for example by introducing energy efficient fleets, monetisation of carbon credits or avoidance of penalties for CO2 emissions. 
Another one is an opportunity to secure “green” capital, debt or equity, as many investors started introducing ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) criteria in their decision-making process. 

The third one is building a genuine reputation of a business for good, which opens access to a growing group of sustainability conscious consumers and attracts talents within highly competitive job markets.
But most importantly, it allows business leaders to demonstrate openly their commitments and passion about driving their businesses in an ethical and responsible way.

To help me become a leader, capable of building and driving a sustainable organisation, I have chosen to enrol on the Executive MBA at Warwick Business School, a recognised leader in executive education and one of the best business schools for sustainability.
 

Find out more about the Executive MBA programme here.

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