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Focus, start, share: how companies can win at innovation for sustainability

In the latest in the series on life-changing technologies, PA Consulting’s experts explain how leaders from all sectors can innovate for sustainability and climate response, in more concrete and impactful ways

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With world leaders coming together at COP26 to address the climate crisis, companies seeking to embed sustainability practices are not just doing the right thing for the planet, they’re also following the money. “By 2025, a third of the world’s assets under management globally will be ESG [Environmental Social and Governance] investments,” says Mark Lancelott, sustainability finance expert at PA. “Investors will be looking at how a business is addressing sustainability and climate response – and that will affect access to capital.”

But responding to climate change and embracing impactful sustainability is a shift not all businesses can instantly enact – systemic change must first take place. It requires fresh thinking about five key components of every business’s operations – water, carbon, waste, product, packaging – and following up with action. “The question then becomes how one sees and realises the value in those five things,” says Jonquil Hackenberg, global head of sustainability at PA. “How you derive new business models and financial benefits as much as environmental benefits; how you innovate in that space from a technology as well as from a business model perspective; and how you measure progress.”

It starts with making sustainability central to your purpose as a firm. You’ll need to pick an area that’s core to your business and where you can win and start delivering real impact. For this you will need partners outside your business who can take you further and look for existing and new technology to develop life-changing innovations.

Make sustainability core to your business and value chain

Treating sustainability as an initiative is great, but to make real impact, you’ll need to embed it into your organisation’s core purpose. This ensures all strategies and activities are measured against sustainability goals. This will drive the right actions across the company and wider value chain, helping uncover novel opportunities and deliver greater impact environmentally and to the bottom line.

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