2021 has seen sustainability, social outcomes and #netpositiveimpact emerge into the mainstream of corporate activity. Where will it all lead in 2022?
Scott Jacobs and George Hulbert of The Bridge give their views:
2021 has been a big year for The Bridge: we’ve loved the work we have been doing for organisations that span the worlds of infrastructure, energy, insurance, engineering, construction, landscaping, design & advertising, workplace design, print, the law, and many more.
Six trends have really stood out to us among the many things that have caught our eye this year, as we worked to help organisations to adapt, align and achieve in the world of #broaderoutcomes, #publicvalue, #socialimpact, and #ESG. In our view they will only accelerate into 2022:
1. Corporate enthusiasm is building to align with and embed ESG principles
Whether government-mandated or corporate-led, the movement to embed social and environmental outcomes is exploding – and is only set to strengthen into 2022. We are being contacted by organisations big and small that see the need to adapt, align and achieve in this area. They are looking not only to succeed but also to deliver on their genuine motivations to drive #netpositiveimpact for the benefit of the people and planet around them.
We have been impressed in particular by:
The Footprint/Handprint concept that Beca has created to ensure that the progress they make is not just in their own social and environmental footprint, but also in the ‘handprint’ influence they can exert through their work with clients. Beca truly appreciates that the concept of legacy (across social, economic, cultural and environmental dimensions) is something that must be fused into the heart of the organisation’s DNA, and this influence takes places not only in the work they do within their own four walls but in the choices they help their clients to make.
The ‘family’ approach taken by Ghella, which will set an inspirational platform for 2022…
Many organisations are thinking about the big opportunities that are coming up over the next 6 months to a year from now, creating strategies and action plans to deliver on them. When they look ahead, instead of just the tendered opportunities that right in front of them, the opportunity to create and enact strategy is so much bigger.
Soar Print continues to stretch themselves in this area. Already an award-winning Climate Action Leader (SBN Awards 2020), Soar demonstrates that SMEs have as big a part to play in delivering change than the big corporates - if not bigger. Soar shows that everyone can take effective action that not only improves legacy outcomes for people and planet, but also delivers savings, value, growth and a platform to win.
It has also been inspiring that so many highly-regarded people have engaged with us along the way and given us their time, including Adrienne Miller, Emily Mason, Sarah Lang, Anthony Flannery, Andy Eakin, Dr Natalie Allen, Chris Aughton, Sam Ketley, Rachel Devine, Matthew Heal, Alec Tang and numerous others.
We cannot thank you enough for the time you have taken not only to share your thinking but to encourage us in our journey.
2. Broader Outcomes bid weightings have lifted all year – and will continue to do so
From 5% to 10%, even 20%, and in one case 40%, there’s no doubt that there’s increasing weight being placed on Public Value in tenders.
The most recent development we have seen in this area – Pass/Fail criteria being placed by Auckland Council, requiring evidence of your action across social, environmental, economic and cultural outcomes – takes this to an even higher level in our view.
What it says to us is that this is not even a matter for future consideration and action. It’s an absolute evidential requirement: a doorway through which you must already have walked to even be considered.
3. You only introduce yourself to this environment once – from then on it’s all about setting targets and taking action
We’ve seen and helped many businesses begin to engage in this area. It’s highly motivating for us to see so many organisations take new steps forward to align the agenda with their own values and missions, moving forwards to put #netpositiveimpact at the heart of their organisational DNA.
They know that from now on the journey requires initiatives to deliver on strategy, and capturing data to demonstrate their progress towards their goals.
So, we ask you: what drives your business, what are your targets, and what are you planning to do about achieving them in 2022?
4. You still need to start with 'why'
Most people now know of Simon Sinek and the importance of “starting with why” before undergoing any transformational change. This is more important than ever when you intend to make a net positive impact and focus on wider goals of social or environmental concern. Every organisation we’ve worked with has felt it necessary, with our gentle encouragement, to revisit their company’s mission statement, vision and values as part of developing a strategy for social and sustainable impact. Often their existing mission and goals were developed several years ago and are no longer fit for purpose, regardless of any ESG intentions.
Starting with why is also an essential ingredient for properly motivating and galvanizing your teams into action. You’ll find they are very keen to develop ideas but will first want to gauge your intentions and whether there is a real sense of purpose to your objectives.
5. Establish your baseline and be transparent on your progress
A lot of businesses seem paralysed by not knowing when, how or where to take action with broader outcomes /ESG intentions. Senior executives we speak to are often keen and committed but don’t know what to do or are concerned with what would be meaningful. One of the most transparent and productive things you can do is gathering accurate information on where you stand right now. This may involve engaging a third-party certifier, or simply just undertaking your own analysis and establishing your baselines in areas that matter most to your business model.
You can earn a significant amount of respect by being honest and transparent with where you are at now, while setting ambitious targets to demonstrate your progress over time. For example with supplier diversity, you may only be working with, say, two Māori-owned businesses this year, but being honest about that and setting an intention to double or triple that number by the end of 2022 would represent significant progress and something to be commended.
6. The early bird catches the worm
Lastly, the old adage remains true. You can win more business with the broader outcomes / ESG imperative but only if you are proactive. People often comment that their government or corporate clients aren’t yet asking about their carbon footprint, or commitment to supplier diversity, etc in tender processes. If you look more broadly you will see this is an absolute prerequisite in areas like civil construction, infrastructure and essential services. Do you want to sit back and wait for it to affect your area of the market, or would you rather stoke the hornet’s nest and lead some change amongst your competitors?
It’s only a matter of time until broader outcomes and ESG requirements become imperatives in a much wider range of procurement and contracting activities. Those who are on the right side of this will have the most to gain in terms of winning new business and building more brand capital in the market. If you don’t get on board now you will miss out – the agenda is only growing and will create a divide between those that do and those that don’t.
So, as we come to the end of a busy 2021 and look ahead into next year, we ask you the question we have heard asked over the past few months:
What kind of ancestors do you wish to be?
Have a very merry Christmas break. We hope to see you in 2022!