As Sustenuto now is partner of the CSR Competence Center of AMS, it’s time to get to know founder and director Dirk le Roy. Sustenuto provides sustainable coaching for both businesses and organizations and unites experienced professionals with a passion for sustainability. It mainly works for larger businesses and organizations in Belgium and develops learning networks for MVO Flanders, Unizo and the Chambers of Commerce. Sustenuto conducts policy studies and project for cities, the Flemish and federal government, the European Committee and the OESO.
The name Sustenuto reflects the spirit of a boutique consultancy corporation. It is a musical term in which certain notes are played sustained. It’s a metaphor for the perpetual attention which sustainability needs for a true integration in the organization’s core.
How did you ever come to the domain of corporate social responsibility and sustainability?
The first passion was definitely the environment and specifically the oceans. After my studies as an agricultural engineer I decided to study biological oceanography in France, chasing Jacques Cousteau. My first professional job as an environmental advisor led on to wonderful projects all over the globe, for example the implantation of new ports in the South of Thailand. It also familiarized me with a number of industries the way they work on reducing their environmental impact.
Throughout the years my interest for the social side of things became stronger and stronger, concerning the interaction as a coach with entrepreneurs and managers as what social responsibility means for enterprises. In combination with a larger sense for entrepreneurship my interest expanded to a full interaction between entrepreneurship and society. Around the year 2000 I started an intensive 2-year project together with about 15 entrepreneurs, in co-operation with the Koning Boudewijnstichting, to find the answer to 3 simple questions. What is sustainability? Why? And how? It was the real foundation that lead to the decision to establish Sustenuto in 2005.
What are the most important challenges for business regarding corporate
social responsibility and sustainability?
One of the biggest challenges is and stays climate change. Climate can be seen as the engine of sustainability which lifts other environmental and social themes to a higher level. This is clear in many different ways. All businesses that have developed a sustainability strategy have turned these ambitions in tangible goals. 96% of the cases relate to the reduction of greenhouse gases, while this is only 25% in, for example, the domain of employee engagement.
In many cases businesses want a list of themes which give interpretation to what sustainability actually is. This makes it practical and sensible. The most important challenge for businesses lies in acquiring knowledge on the impact that they have. Having the courage to view their own organization from a critical point of view, possibly from the perspective of the employee, customer or neighbor or any stakeholder is probably the biggest challenge.
A different way is viewing the development of the enterprise long term, for example in a space of 20 years. Which challenges seize onto the corporation? One can be assured of the fact that governments will have adopted additional measures towards climate, the volatility of the energy price will probably only evolve in one direction (more expensive), our society will be even more diverse (with its effects on employability and markets), … By developing longer term scenario’s and by addressing these challenges, business will automatically integrate sustainability without even using the word itself. Surprisingly, the primary objective for corporations is to just integrate long term thinking consistently.
Further essential ingredients in the sustainability cocktail are empathy for society and a sense of responsibility. Another important trend is the increased integration of sustainability outside the corporate boundaries, in particular the supply chain (acquisition) and the customer (value chain). More and more businesses will be questioned as suppliers concerning their sustainability efforts. Expect more sustainability from initiatives of the European Committee on production packaging which is already the case of on energy performance on electro equipment. A final and not to be underestimated challenge for corporations is a meaningful and sincere translation of sustainability efforts towards the stakeholder, customer and consumer. Those who are capable of that will solidify their market position and grow sustainability this way.
What are the most important strategies to create an acceleration on sustainability and corporate social responsibility?
There are about five strategies to be mentioned. The first one already started and consists of not seeing sustainability as something that stands beside the enterprise but is truly a strategic part of it. The consequence is that they will consciously determine goals of what sustainability means for the business on a longer term, for example by 2025. Implementing this effectively makes a world of difference.
The second strategy is in progress as well. It contains the integration of sustainability in acquisition processes. This way sustainability becomes part of the value chain of enterprises and gains a stronger part in the competition. With the developing policy plans of the European Committee, the federal, regional and city governments we can expect a leap forward on strategic, sustainable acquisitions.
Not entirely unexpected, the most important strategy for the integration of corporate social responsibility or sustainability lies in higher education, especially in management schools. AMS takes the lead here by centrally placing ‘sustainable value creation’ in its mission.
A fourth strategy is utilizing clear benchmark systems that can be used by the media to inform the public and all social partners on CSR.
The most difficult and most effective strategy is when the neutral character of the enterprise can be personified. Values are essentially connected to mankind. This shows the bigger role that is determined for managers to show the ‘sustainable’ way as leaders, for their business. The reason why is simple. To dice the Dutch poet Lucebert: “all things of value are defenseless”.