Global CEOs say “complexity of implementation” is greatest barrier to business sustainability

Global CEO

Global CEOs report that greatest barrier to business sustainability is the complexity of implementation.

In the New Era of Sustainability study, released June, 2010, 93 percent of 766 global CEOs agreed that sustainability is critical to the future success of their companies. In fact, 80 percent of them reported the global economic downturn accelerated their conviction to embrace sustainability practices. But they also lamented that “complexity of implementation across functions” was their most significant barrier to implementing an integrated, company-wide approach to Sustainability. Of particular issue was the challenge of establishing a consistent, companywide approach across large and increasingly complex supply chains and subsidiaries. Clearly, the journey from sustainability strategy to implementation is not all that easy.

Fast forward to August, 2010, another study, Demand for ISO 14001 adoption in the global supply chain notes that environmental preferences and pressures of customers in environmentally conscious markets are more likely to encourage domestic and foreign suppliers to adopt ISO 14001. Related studies found that buyers with environmental management systems (EMS) certified to ISO 14001 were 40 percent more likely to formally assess their suppliers’ environmental performance and 50 percent more likely to require their suppliers to undertake specific environmental practices. Researchers concluded that suppliers wishing to access environmentally conscious markets can obtain an advantage with ISO 14001 certification.

Hmmm, let’s see – CEO’s say they need a consistent company wide approach across an increasingly large supply chain that translates sustainability strategy to action; and ISO 14001 is a customer driven, detailed environmental management system that results in action. Just maybe, at least on an on an environmental level, ISO 14001 and Sustainability Strategy frameworks (like the Natural Step) just might be the combined strategy and implementation system that business is seeking.

How it all fits together is the subject of an upcoming course entitled: Integrating Environmental Management Systems with Sustainability & The Natural Step. The program speaks to the process for turning sustainability strategy into consistent action by identifying relationships between principles, objectives, strategies, actions and tools. Simply put, sustainability strategy frameworks like The Natural Step help you determine where you are going, and ISO 14001 systems give you the step by step operating instructions on how to get there.

Clearly businesses need a clear framework to effectively grapple with the challenge of moving toward a sustainable society. What currently exists is a broad range of approaches, tools, frameworks, principles, strategies and processes which can confuse if not understood in relation to a framework for sustainability. Furthermore, tools such as ISO 14001, while a useful start, do not in themselves assist an organization to “begin with the end in mind”. The Sustainability Learning Centre’s course will help your merge the best parts of these two systems and bring much needed action to strategy.

Integrating Environmental Management Systems with Sustainability & The Natural Step is an interactive and experiential four part Webinar Course that begins September 21 and concludes October 12, 2010. All sessions are recorded so participants can access them at a convenient time. For more information and to register visit:

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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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