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Transforming sustainability – why definable actions must speak louder than words

We are in real trouble…

The IPCC 2022 assessment made for difficult reading, and as an active participant in the sustainability sector, I find myself challenged to find appropriate actions to match the sectors aspirations.

With this objective in mind, I attended the 2022 Economist Sustainability Summit – a 4-day conference that had a strong focus on the financial sector and the economic arguments for change. What I loved about the event was an overwhelming understanding that 2022 has to be the year of ACTION; a rallying cry from business at a louder volume than I have heard it before.

Cautious optimism – but so much to do

I actually took a lot of positives away from the event.

Not to diminish the fact that we are in trouble, it felt like the business community had shown up with lots of tangible, large-scale actions that could significantly reduce our carbon emissions. This was huge for me – even though it still isn’t enough, and it most definitely isn’t happening fast enough, it certainly feels that we are past the early-adopter phase now with more and more businesses stepping up and contributing momentum, however there is a disparity in reality of delivery based on the limited success of current transformation change programmes.

State A to State B

What struck me about the conversation, was how it mirrored every other conversation businesses seem to have about transformation.

We’ve seen this evolve over the decades: industry starts the conversation about transformation with a first stop at technology and process. Only then (and often way too late) do they start to loop in the part about people change.

Recalling an SAP Conference I attended last year – the same theme came through; a collective recognition that people and change was critical but without actually being able to articulate HOW or demonstrate the practical application of this.

At the conference there was a lot of talk about technology (undoubtedly our best shot at reducing emissions), lots of talk about transformation, and not so much talk about people, change or behaviours.

If you compare these observations with the research from the UK Fires team, that states we will all need to use 40% less electricity by 2050 to hit the required targets, there is an evident gap in how these objectives will achieved against the need for efficient change management/transformation.

Treat sustainability like business transformation

Here at Serendata we think that now it is time for businesses to bring their sustainability agenda in line with their broader transformation agenda. This matters because, while well intentioned, if businesses are not thinking about how they join up their increasingly more complex and disparate organisational change agendas, they significantly increase the chance of failure (and that means all change initiatives not just sustainability related ones).

Why is this? We are already seeing employees struggle with the pace of business change – with change fatigue, change saturation and a disconnect from the change agenda contributing to a more unsettled work environment.

Here are some thoughts on how you might get started:

  • Stop treating Sustainability as a strategic, ‘special’ project and start managing and executing ESG projects in the same way as Financial or IT transformation programmes, or organisational restructuring programmes

  • Take better control of your overall transformation landscape – dedicate people to structuring and governing Transformation to maximise your chances of success and minimise spend/ROI

  • Use specialists in transformational change such as Sysdoc. Leaders who really get the people side of change can significantly improve adoption of new tech, ideas, or operating models whether that is in the sustainability or IT space.

A key goal of the Serendata Insight platform has always been to help organisations visualise their entire change landscape; helping to demonstrate the best opportunities for landing transformation successfully, and as a journey for the whole business.

We can help our clients respond to the climate crisis by providing a consistent way to manage and integrate all transformation initiatives. We are already seeing how this can add significant value in decision making and contribute to high levels of success on change programmes – we want sustainability to form part of that picture in your organisation, so get in touch with us if you'd like to learn more.


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