Recommended approach balances needs of investors, society and the environment
SAN JOSE, Calif., and LONDON - January 15, 2008 - Organisations that wish to grow profitably in the future must focus their efforts to benefit shareholders, society and the environment simultaneously. Concentrating on any one of these areas at the expense of the other two may compromise a business's long-term success. A focus on sustainability provides the best means to implement this triple-pronged strategy simultaneously, enabling organisations to innovate, differentiate themselves and succeed.
These are the key conclusions of a new paper published today by a group of international academic experts on corporate responsibility and sustainability, which offers a new approach to how sustainabiity can build innovation and global collaboration across organisations. The paper, "A New Mindset for Corporate Sustainability", was sponsored by Cisco and BT. Drawn from respected institutions in China, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and United States, the academics offer business leaders concise advice based on a systematic appraisal of case studies, including Cemex, Marks & Spencer and Shenzhen Water, and prevailing academic thinking on the subject worldwide. The paper also outlines the 10 steps required for organisations to become sustainability-driven innovators.*
Offering a new approach, which the academics have named S2AVE (Shareholder and Social Added Value with Environmental Restoration), emphasises the role of sustainability in increasing innovation across the business and maintains that sustainability should be a strategy rather than an objective. It concludes that the achievement of sustainability goals does not require extensive re-engineering of the corporate structure. Instead, it requires conviction and vision at the very highest levels of the organisation so that a set of values coherent with corporate responsibility and sustainability are instilled throughout.
While the academic team met in person several times, no international travel was required. Using Cisco TelePresence, the high-definition virtual meeting solution, the group was able to come together and discuss their research as though in a conventional face-to-face meeting, whilst reducing travel so as to minimise any negative environmental effects of the collaboration.
The following experts were involved in producing the paper:
Professor Sarah Slaughter of Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "The method by which this paper was produced gave all of us a unique opportunity to share views and collaborate in an entirely new way. Crucially, our ability to share experiences from around the globe enabled us to identify the importance of courageous, visionary leadership in achieving innovation through sustainability. The paper shows how, with the right direction, organisations can harness sustainability to open up and take the lead in markets that would otherwise have remained closed to them, securing their long-term future as they do so.
"Our conclusion is that the 'triple bottom line' should no longer be a tangential activity, with shareholder value the main consideration. Instead, strategies should be focused on all three areas simultaneously as an integrated system because, as our case studies demonstrate, each strand can yield benefits for the other two," she said.
Professor Zhouying Jin of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences comments: "This was a unique opportunity for us all to collaborate and produce a document of genuine use to organisations everywhere. It is clear from our discussions that if we can share sustainability best practices then organisations will gain commercial benefit faster. Sustainability should not be seen as a cost to the business. Rather, it should be viewed as an opportunity. Indeed, we believe it provides the best route for organisations to innovate and safeguard their future."
A unique collaboration
Francois Barrault, CEO, BT Global Services, said, "BT and Cisco wanted to jointly create a project on a topic both companies felt strongly about. Also, we wanted it to be truly global, combining the technology solutions and infrastructure that we market together. We think that the academics' findings bring into clear focus the challenges facing BT, Cisco and other companies around the world. Not only should we make sustainability an integral part of our strategies, but doing this will make our companies better and more competitive as a result."
Phil Smith, VP for technology marketing at Cisco, added, "It's essential that sustainability is at the heart of the strategic direction that businesses and organisations need to follow. The ability to collaborate across virtual teams, globally, will be the practical step to make this direction a reality. As this 'world-first' project demonstrates, it is possible to create deep, innovative thinking across global teams using innovative new collaboration tools such as TelePresence."
To download the paper visit www.biggerthinking.com/sustainability/innovation.
About BT and Cisco: Working Together
BT and Cisco have a shared vision for the future of IP (Internet Protocol) services. Built on their insight as market leaders across a variety of networked IT and communications services, the two companies have an unrivalled offering across the globe to customers migrating towards convergence. Based on a relationship established in the early 1990s, BT and Cisco work together to offer world-leading IT and communications technology. Through the relationship, BT provides world-class Cisco technology backed up by market-leading integration services. And together, through their mutual understanding of complex network environments and solution provisioning, the relationship delivers superior capability, service and value for money.
BT is one of the world's leading providers of communications solutions and services operating in 170 countries. Its principal activities include networked IT services; local, national and international telecommunications services; higher-value broadband and internet products and services and converged fixed/mobile products and services. BT consists principally of four lines of business: BT Global Services, Openreach, BT Retail and BT Wholesale.
In the year ended 31 March 2007, BT Group plc's revenue was £20,223 million with profit before taxation of £2,484 million.
British Telecommunications plc (BT) is a wholly-owned subsidiary of BT Group and encompasses virtually all businesses and assets of the BT Group. BT Group plc is listed on stock exchanges in London and New York.
For more information, visit www.bt.com/aboutbt