Sustainable business

Learn about the role of mindsets and corporate culture in the effectiveness of sustainability initiatives.

Sustainability is one of today's great challenges. We have spoken with Anastasia Shevchenko, of ESCP's STAR Centre for Sustainability Transformation and Applied Research to understand how to tackle it. 

ESCP: Anastasia, you are working with companies, the public sector, NGOs, universities and business schools to make sure that sustainability becomes or stays a top priority. What do you think is academia's role in driving sustainable transformation in business?

Anastasia Shevchenko: The way I see it, an academic institution has two primary roles in bringing about any type of societal improvement, such as sustainability transformation:

  1. Educating (the next generation of) citizens, voters, decision-makers, and consumers
  2. Producing scientific output that decision-makers from the public, private and non-profit sectors can use in ensuring well-informed debates, and that will eventually result in better policy

In addition, academia can serve as a platform to engage science, business, and politics, fostering cooperation and partnerships, monitoring and evaluating progress, or even promoting public awareness and debate.

ESCP: What role does a company's culture play in sustainability transformation?

Anastasia Shevchenko: A company's culture is the very fabric that ties all the processes together in the way an organisation creates and delivers value - not only in the marketplace, but in the broader ESG (environmental, social, government) context. For this reason, a company's culture plays a crucial role in driving sustainability transformation, shaping an individuals' underlying assumptions and perceptions about the world.

Company culture also has a direct influence on levels of employee engagement and innovation, willingness to take on and manage risks, or accept accountability. If as an individual I feel like my own actions do not make an impact, I might be reluctant to even try. If I know, however, that with a simple action, I contribute to my company's mission, I might be more inclined to adapt my behaviour accordingly.

In the research that we have carried out over the last years, we have taken these insights and are in the process of developing an ESCP STAR Centre course. Through this course, we aim to address the issue of organisational transformation towards sustainability on all levels -  individual, organisation, and system - providing decision-makers and innovators with the kind of knowledge, competence, tools, and methods that would raise their levels of confidence in bringing sustainability transformation to their organisations.

ESCP: How can an organisation work on a mindset change for their entire staff?

Anastasia Shevchenko: As a research centre at a major business school, we strongly believe that the answer lies in education. However, we need a specific type of education to empower sustainability transformation and not business as usual. We at the ESCP STAR Centre believe that in order to have a true sustainability transformation, we need to create change on an individual level, but that the organisation needs ways to promote certain behaviours. In our approach, we start by training top management with our head (rational arguments), heart (self-development), and hand (practice) approach, as they will have to lead by example. Once top-level support is in place, individuals should be empowered by their organisation. This can happen through raising awareness first - both for the issue at hand, and one's own behaviour. A second step could be to understand the context in which the individual operates and what their connections to the "whole" are. In a subsequent step, the organisation should focus on deciding upon desired attitudes and behaviours, and finding ways to making them part of bigger job tasks and smaller daily routines. 

To learn more about sustainability transformation, see the our STAR Centre page for upcoming webinars and events. 

Are you interested in training for sustainability transformation? Reach out to Anastasia