Can sustainability become a lever for the competitiveness of our companies in international markets?
The answer, affirmative, is seemingly obvious. The reasons are not, and more importantly, once the benefits of running a business sustainably are established, the ways are not obvious, and it is not as well known where to start to make a business sustainable.
Let us then go in order.
Why is a sustainable enterprise more competitive in international markets?
Here are some answers, intended in a few words to give an idea of the urgency of the change to which all enterprises are called.
- A sustainable business is able to intercept, when not precede, consumer and customer demands.
During the workshop, we showed the advertising campaigns of some large multinational companies: large players in the hi-tech, automotive and mechanical engineering markets have in recent months undertaken advertising campaigns strongly focused on their commitment to sustainability. Net zero emissions is the most widespread committment. A declared commitment by 2030, which will involve all players in their respective supply chains. Change is underway, already with solemn commitments from large multinational corporations. To think of remaining in the market with industrial processes or products that are not aligned with these commitments is to count on forcibly exiting the market itself within a few years. If market competitiveness is about the ability to intercept and precede future technological trends, then sustainability must be counted among these trends.
Scientific research has focused on the development of sustainable materials and production processes. We will witness momentous changes in the coming years, and we are already seeing some of them today (think of electric in automotive). Will our SMEs, which cannot always afford an adequate in-house R&D team, be able to revise their offerings in a sustainable way? At the workshop, we outlined our solutions for supporting companies in open innovation paths. This involves placing companies at the center of an exchange of technological know-how with external research players, enabling them to identify technological trends in the industry and to transfer, in time and in an accomplished manner, these trends into successful products.
Some practical suggestions
The following are some practical considerations and suggestions that emerged during the workshop.
A company that aspires to present itself and its products as sustainable in global markets must know how to update its relationship with suppliers and customers according to the parameters of sustainability. Thus, the paradigm of the customer-supplier relationship changes. The former will have to ensure that the supply chain is sustainable: it will have to equip itself with appropriate tools and procedures to audit its suppliers. Questionnaires, periodic audits, certifications from third parties, and new selection procedures and grids will have to be the armamentarium of buyers who will have to know how to renew their selection criteria. Similarly, supplier companies will need to be able to effectively communicate their commitment to sustainability with strong and credible arguments based on concrete actions and initiatives. The difficulty of all this for those operating in global markets lies in structuring that relationship with actors who operate in foreign markets, have other sensibilities, and speak different languages.
With communication we touch on another fundamental aspect of sustainability: if sustainability is to become a strategic asset for competitiveness, it must be communicated. The values of the company, the commitment to the environment, the sustainability of the product, the low impact of industrial processes must be communicated to all the actors with whom the company operates. These actors certainly include customers and suppliers, but also the company’s workers themselves. These are or will be called upon to be the first outward ambassadors of what the company believes in.
Where to start to make the enterprise sustainable?
We conclude with the last question we posed at the beginning of this in-depth study: where to start. Roncucci&Partners has developed an assessment tool for the first insight about corporate sustainability. Strengths and areas for improvement need to be mapped against ESG parameters. This mapping will allow the development of a plan of interventions consistent with an overall strategy for the direction of the company in the coming years.
At Roncucci&Partners we help companies develop themselves and their business, embrace change and evolve to thrive in a world that is increasingly complicated, insidious and requires great expertise. We do this by applying punctual methods and rigorous strategies, the result of many years of experience and the richness of the numerous success stories we have conducted all over the world. Passion and method are indeed our guides to enhance the present and build the future.