Leading Sustainability Change
Corporate sustainability is important for two reasons. As the world’s popu- lation soars and resources become
increasingly scarce, it becomes necessary
for businesses to act responsibly. In a world
of social media, viral videos, and ever-increasing transparency, corporations must
protect their reputations if they expect to be
relevant in the long run.
The term corporate social responsibility
(CSR) first became popular in the 1960s and
1970s as large multinational corporations
formed the term stakeholder, meaning the
groups of people impacted by the business’s
operations. Stakeholders include:
Photo: Tommaso Colia
• Society at large
Today, one of the most widely adopted
CSR concepts is the triple bottom line,
which recognizes a business’s responsibility
to society, to the environment, and to the
economy. This is different from traditional,
financial-only disclosures, which do not
account for social or environmental impacts.
I believe that in our retail environments
industry, this idea encompasses all of our
constituents—retail organizations and all
of their suppliers, including design firms,
manufacturers of fixtures, flooring, signage,
4 Get commitment
from the top.
No major company initiative will be
successful without commitment from
senior management. If you are not
in the position to speak directly to
senior management at your company,
garner support from your manager
first and have this person approach
senior management on your behalf.
visual presentations, materials, and anything else that goes into a store, as well as
supporting service companies that provide
transportation, logistics, and installation,
Here are six easy steps to lead sustainability change in your organization—
regardless of its size or complexity.
5 Engage employees.
Assembling a team to draft a sustainability vision and framework
has been an inspiring task. I have
had the privilege to lead this initiative. It
takes a whole company. You will not be able
to come up with all the ideas yourself and will
not be able to see all the opportunities. This
is the time to establish a compelling vision.
Sometimes I consider myself the corporate
1 Decide to do it.
6 Report it.
The release of formal Corporate Sustainability
Reports is a good way for companies to show
their commitment to CSR. These reports typically begin by laying out the baseline performance and outline goals. Subsequent reports
show progress against targets and identify
“One of the first things I did was read every
book I could get my hands on about cor-
porate social responsibility,” says Andrew
Ramirez. Here are three of his top recom-
mendations for those interested in leading
sustainability change in their organizations:
Onward: How Starbucks fought for its life
without losing its soul by Howard Schultz
Responsibility Revolution by Jeffrey
Triple Bottom Line by Andrew W. Savitz
2 Build the business case.
To get buy-in from senior management, you
will need to demonstrate the financial benefits of corporate sustainability. You must show
the financial benefits of reducing energy, evaluating process efficiency, using responsible
materials, and so on. To convince corporate
executives, it is essential to show return on
investment and other quantifiable and measurable metrics.
I believe that for a business to be truly
sustainable, it should operate in a way that
benefits society, the environment, and the
economy. Together, we can leave this planet
better than we found it.
3 Recruit allies.
A sustainability initiative is not something
that one individual can successfully champion
alone. Instead of asking, “How can I do this all
by myself?” a better question might be, “Who
could I enlist to help?” Finding a core group
of supportive people will provide you with the
support necessary to get the initial momentum
Andrew J. Ramirez is
director of sustainability for
Bishop Fixture + Millwork.
Contact him at aramirez@