| Author's Name: Mark Schultz
Date: Tue 17 Nov 2015
What role does the Board play in the development, implementation and monitoring of the sustainability of the organisation it governs?
Firstly, why is sustainability a governance responsibility? The answer is quite simple – Board members are custodians of their organisations and are charged with the responsibility of ensuring they leave the business in “better shape” than when they were appointed to their positions. This outcome cannot be achieved if the 3 pillars of sustainability, namely Economic, Community and Environment are either ignored or not given the appropriate focus and attention in both the strategic and operational management of the business.
Secondly, it makes good business sense to include the 3 pillars of sustainability in the governance model; a few of the positive returns are as follows:
How then does a Board incorporate sustainability into its governance responsibility and agenda?
The following approach is advised for the Board to take a leadership role in this aspect of strategic management:
Sustainability is no longer an “optional extra” in the governance and strategic management of any organisation, large or small, for profit or non-profit. Business may arrive at a position on sustainability from different perspectives (compliance, good corporate citizens, generational, or market demand), however irrespective of the drivers, the outcomes achieved will benefit all stakeholders. Managing and leading change in such a key strategic area sits very comfortable with the Board and is one area that the Board should take a proactive approach (i.e. because it is the right thing to do) rather than a reactive approach (because it is something that has to be done). Both achieve a result, but the former reflects a positive culture and is an investment, whilst the latter merely conforms to compliance requirement and is seen and treated as a cost.
In summary, every Board should want to leave a positive legacy from its time as custodians of the organisation. Developing, implementing, resourcing and monitoring the 3 plank policy of economic, social and environmental sustainability will go a long way of achieving this outcome and generate a great result for all stakeholders.