Challenge Sustainability Workshop | 2014
On 24 September 2014, the EMM Network’s national representation in Chile hosted an interactive workshop themed ‘Challenge Sustainability: Solutions with the private sector in different parts of the world’ in Santiago de Chile.
In a small-group setting, managers had the opportunity to discuss internal and external business challenges related to sustainability. They also showcased successful projects from different parts of the world and with different sustainability-focus.
Key subject of this half-day event was the strategic positioning of the companies in terms of sustainability and the specific challenges for the Chilean private sector. During the workshop, the participants jointly explored how specific activities can take the companies into an advanced competitive position.
The three most influential internal challenges to sustainability as identified in the group discussions were the corporate culture, the project implementation as well as overall corporate management.
With respect to cultural issues hampering the advancement of sustainability, the participants noted that their companies often lack the willingness to change, to have an open dialogue and to search for innovative ways to handle local and global sustainability challenges.
The implementation of sustainability projects was on the one hand said to be difficult due to lack of expertise on behalf of the respective teams. On the other hand, the same enterprises launching sustainability projects often have a too short-term centered focus. This emphasizes that there is often a discrepancy between overall corporate politics and the practical implementation of strategic projects.
Participants furthermore highlighted that attractive incentives and impact monitoring on behalf of institutions are missing in Chile. These would provide coherence and also support the implementation of sustainability projects. Additionally, the management and implementation of sustainability projects is commonly not interlinked well with the core business activities.
The external challenges to sustainability discussed in the workshop can be divided into two main categories, which reflect the gaps discussed regarding the internal challenges: The management of social relations (generation of trust, expectation and wealth management) and the institutionalization of the environment with its respective operational challenges. Companies need to first address the challenges their own organizations pose towards sustainability before external challenges can be overcome adequately.
Recommendations and Outlook
From stakeholder engagement to shared value through an integrated sustainability approach.
The discussions during the workshop did not focus on technical solutions but rather the holistic approach to sustainability project management and corporate responsibility. This is because ultimately the best technical solution cannot work unless a holistic approach is taken, which includes active participation and an integration of all relevant elements – social, economic and environmental. A key component to this integrated approach is having an open dialogue, which not only helps to build trust but also cooperation relations with a long-term perspective. Through a comprehensive approach, the subject of sustainability can be advanced. This is a prerequisite for „climbing on top of the board and surfing the wave “, which corresponds to achieving a true partnership that results in a benefit to all players condition.
The collaboration between companies, public institutions and social organizations can complement each other’s activities and generate a higher efficiency, a wider range of impacts and recognition by all stakeholders.
The challenges at the regional or local level require a closer collaboration between the different actors, creating a shared regional or local subject. The coordination between the different actors in the private and public sectors can create value through solutions in communities while increasing the scope and level of impacts achieved. However, the association of different actors only forms the basis for advancing the issue of sustainability as well as for the value creation for the benefit of all stakeholders.
Education and training are necessary for effective sustainability management.
Education and training play a key role in businesses, e.g. in process optimization and remodeling. While education and training generally present a challenge, they also form the basis for almost all business activities regarding sustainable development. Training in this case includes technical and/or professional capacity building and is also a key element in the environment for a sustainable management of the value chain.
The conclusions drawn from the group discussions and presentations within the scope of this workshop overall have a rather soft and broad rather than a ‘technical’ and specific focus. Furthermore, it should be noted that the challenges for the private sector, external and internal, are identified in the field of management. In this regard, it is necessary to apply new tools, approaches and methods for managing internal and external expectations facing businesses.