Double Blog: The CEO and The Report

February 4, 2013

The Most Important “Thing”: The CEO

I often get asked, “what is the most important thing to get right in a sustainability program?” or “what absolutely needs to be in place for a sustainability program” and other similar questions. 

It is kind of like asking “what is the most important part of living a healthy life?”  The real  answer: many things.  Every little thing adds up.  Every action counts.

But, if pressed, to give a specific answer to the sustainability question, here it is -- the CEO is on board. Better yet, the CEO is the source of the sustainability program; the CEO is the champion, the cheerleader and the cause.

Some would argue that it is the opposite -- it has to be from the bottom up and not top down.  That may be true in some cases. But for the vast majority of the companies out there, the vision, the strategy, the direction....all comes from the top. If the CEO is leading, people will listen to her.  They will follow his lead.

Just look at the leading sustainability programs and see how the CEO fits in.  GE and Jeff Immelt, Wal-Mart and then CEO Lee Scott, and on and on.

Of course, there are dozens, hundreds, and thousands of other things to get right, to get in place, and to implement correctly. That is where sustainability consultants, like myself, provide value. Having seen dozens of different company programs envisioned, strategized, and implemented, I have seen what works and what does not.  For example...

The Report

One of the key parts of a sustainability program is Reporting.  Part of the reason of implementing a sustainability program is to improve corporate reputation based on improved performance. Questions emerge...

Should we report?
On just the website?
Should we do a sustainability report?
Both website and report?
If so, should it be certified or assured?
If so, should we join a reporting initiative or protocol?
What metrics or subjects or topics should we include?
What data should be posted?
Should the data be indexed or raw data?
Do we report every year?  Every quarter? Every week? Just once?
Who is our audience or our target stakeholders?

and on and on. It is a difficult process but one that every company has either gone through or will be going through soon.

If it feels overwhelming, then that is normal.  Don’t just guess -- get it right.  Come up with a strategy based on sound business principles, implement your strategy, check your process and results, and improve the next time around.  If you need assistance, please keep us in mind. We are here to help.

- Jeff




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