How CEO's Can Leave a Legacy of CSR, Innovation

Executives can
ensure their companies remain innovative long after they depart,
thanks to a study of more than 13,000 academic and industry

Called “Embedding Sustainability in Organizational
the study was conducted by the Network for Business
Sustainability, a Canadian non-profit funded by academic research
grants and private and public partners.

“This research takes a large and sometimes confusing body
of information and synthesizes it into a holistic - yet practical -
framework for building sustainability into a business,” said Karen
Clarke-Whistler, Chief Environment Officer for TD Bank Group and a
member of the Network’s Leadership Council. 

According to a 2010 Accenture global survey, 93% of CEO’s
see sustainability as key to their future success. But they worry
their company’s sustainability culture will wither once they
depart. And they’re torn between conventional tactics such as
reporting and compliance and innovative tactics that generate new
future growth. 

“Compliance in the absence of innovation means you’re
operating in yesterday’s economy and will be left behind,” said
study author Stephanie Bertels, PhD. “However, innovation in the
absence of compliance exposes you to risk. This research presents a
framework for balancing both. “ 

Bertels is an assistant professor at SFU Business, Simon
Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada) and a Topic Editor for
the Network for Business Sustainability. Her study was commissioned
by the Network’s Leadership Council, a group of private, public,
and non-profit organizations. The council identified “Building an
Enduring, Durable Culture of Sustainability” as one of their

target=”_blank”>top priorities for

Bertels found that formal tactics like HR policies, pay
incentives, and CSR reports enable employees to meet emissions
levels or comply with safety standards. But they don’t improve
business processes or create new products. True innovation requires

“Executives should complement traditional tactics with
less conventional ones,” said Bertels.”In addition to, say,
creating codes of conduct and offering training programs, consider
hosting product development challenges or funding
department-specific pilot programs. You may be surprised by the

Bertels’ report provides a useful planning tool for
senior leaders charged with shaping their company’s corporate
culture. The report is available here: Embedding
Sustainability in Organizational Culture:
target=”_blank”>Systematic Review (74
pages) and
target=”_blank”>Executive Report (20

The Network
for Business Sustainability
produces practical insights for
sustainability professionals based on the most rigorous academic
research. Research topics include: climate change, socially
conscious consumers, community engagement, and valuing

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