Top tips on creating step-change
Forum’s Pioneer Partners come from a variety of sectors, from travel to telecommunications, land owners to retailers - but they all have one thing in common: ambitious sustainability goals that can’t be met on their own.
Big goals challenge our partners to look past the boundaries of their organisations and sector to create new products and innovative business models. Take Bupa, who aim to help 60 million people make changes to be healthier, happier and to help protect the environment; or O2, who want to remove ten times as much CO2 than is produced by their own operations from the economy.
However, working at the cutting edge of sustainable business can be a lonely place, so every couple of months we bring our Pioneer Partners together to help them overcome barriers they’re facing and identify places where they could move further and faster by working together.
This year we’ve looked at a whole range of challenges and learnt a new set of lessons to help us rise to them:
- Work across the value chain. To really create step-change, businesses need to look beyond their organisational boundaries and engage with their entire value chain from suppliers to customers. In most cases, they will also need to look outside the value chain and reach out to NGOs and civil society organisations. Take M&S’s shwopping initiative. Customers bring their old clothes to M&S – the good clothes are given to Oxfam and any faulty clothes are recycled by M&S. This business model gives income to Oxfam, reduces waste and creates a resource stream for M&S.
- Innovate. Creating the step-change required, businesses need to innovate their products and services. They need to re-examine everything from the raw materials to disposal to how they deliver value to customers.
- Don’t try and do everything at once. Making the business case for step-change all at once can be hard. So it might help to demonstrate the ambition in one location, area or segment and then take the lessons from that experiment and scale-up.
- Set a global ambition which can be delivered locally. Local offices need to be able to translate group level ambitions into local opportunities.
- Be ready to disrupt and use new channels. Consider using new channels to source ideas and promote products and services. Take P&G’s open approach to innovation for instance. They use a digital platform to allow those outside their traditional R&D networks to come up with new product ideas.
- And finally…. Don’t forget the commercial rationale. It is crucial that for any new business model to be taken seriously within the industry it needs to have a solid commercial rationale.
No one has all the answers for creating the step-change needed to reach a sustainable future, but one thing is certain: We’re more likely to find the answers by working together than trying to face them alone.
To find out more about the Sustainable Business Models Group click here.