12 Priority Areas in Environmental Leadership and the Questions to ask

Environmental Leadership in Practice

An Environmental Leader Is One Who Strives to Inspire, not Impress (Mia Babasyan)

This Blog seeks to raise several key elements of Environmental Leadership within business practice that every business leader should be asking. The article sets out a series of critical areas and some related questions that any Corporate Executive or Senior Manager can ask of themselves and the teams they lead. If they receive answers that raise questions regarding how embedded environmental governance, stewardship or CSR is, then they are encouraged to dig deeper for answers.

The desired outcome is the integration of environmental awareness, responsibility and leadership into the organisations strategic and ethical leadership culture.

Whilst this article is aimed at helping organisational and business leaders, I hope that the questions asked are also of help to those who aspire to future leadership, those who are not bosses and those who aspire to personal environmental responsibility. In reality a leader is just that individual who has taken that first bold step as an example and model for others to follow! Environmental leadership is something that all of us should aspire to by taking that first step in creating awareness, consciousness, and action on reducing harm to our planet……it just helps if you are in a position of corporate power to make it happen quicker!

Environmental Leadership – Taking those First Steps

Many experienced business owners and executives are often wary of being perceived a ‘green’ or in my own corporate experience being called a ‘bunny hugger’ by another manager. Instead I view environmental leadership through a green businessman approach, adopting many of the norms of good management but aspiring to a leadership style that to incorporate at least 3 added dimension of sustainability thinking:

  1. A self-awareness or worldview – call it what you want, that cares about what happens outside the organisation’s factory gates as a result of its activities.
  2. A  mindset that can comprehend and trace the complex interactions, business linkages and activity that organisations have with the world around them. This may include its material and resources usages, waste and pollution, social and health impacts, ethical behaviours, climate change, etc
  3. The clear identification of what business components rely on, could rely on or impact adversely on unsustainable issues – notably those elements that are rare, scarce, renewable or unsustainable in the long term. 

12 Priority Areas in Environmental Leadership and the Questions to ask

1. Enterprise Risk Management:

To what extent does the business & its strategic planning recognise environmental and social risks and opportunities. Are these identified, quantified and ultimately acted upon by Operational and Business Groups? In our supply chain?

Suggested Training Course: Responsible Leadership & Environmental Governance The Leadership Mindset – Moving from Environmental Manager to Environmental Leader

2 .Strategic Decisions & Impact assessment

As a leadership group do we consider the environmental and social impact of major decisions, investments and planning scenarios? Do these actions align with responsible management practices, ethics and our CSR commitments?

3. CSR Trends

What are the critical environmental and social issues that could affect our long term growth, profitability and ultimate business success? What are our competitors considering in terms of CSR and do we understand how they may benefit from these approaches, alignments and partnerships?

Suggested Training Course: SMEs & Family Run Businesses – First steps in Corporate Social Responsibility

4. Capital & Operational Investments

Do our investment and asset management policies incorporate environmental, social and governance factors? Have we factored in tangible and intangible future environmental risks such as climate change, carbon taxation, waste generation and disposal.:

5 .operations & environmental management

Have we taken advantage of opportunities to reduce our environmental footprint in order to generate operational efficiencies and cost-savings? Who is tasked with, or accountable for, looking for such savings and are they adequately supported by the leadership and management teams?

Suggested Training Course: Environmental Leadership: Who is Accountable and for What?

6.products and services

Do our Products and Services address and advance positive environmental and social benefits? Are there environmental and social risks in the life cycle of our products that need to be made more sustainable through design, material usage, production, customer usage and disposal? Through our actions do we contribute towards the creation of a circular economy?

7. environmental management – Impact monitoring and Measurement:

How well are we managing our environmental management systems and are they contributing towards greater corporate sustainability. Do we track and measuring the key environmental and social impacts of our business? Are the financial and environmental costs of our energy, waste and water management systems transparent to help direct us towards greater efficiency.

Suggested Training Courses: Are we on the same Planet?

8. Brand and Market Development

Does our company and product brand include verified sustainability features aligned to our customers’ values? How well does the sustainability of our corporate image or sustainability value of our products advance market share or encourage differentiation from competitors?

9..Stakeholder Perception & management

What are society’s and local stakeholder expectations for a business in our market sector? Are we perceived by customers and clients to be meeting their expectations? What societal trends could present as corporate risks if we are not?

10. Integration & leadership responsibility

How well do our core business processes – such as Corporate Planning, Performance Management, Internal Assurance and Annual Group Business Planning – incorporate environmental and social matters, our CSR policies and leadership accountabilities.

Suggested Training Course: Environmental Leadership: Who is Accountable and for What?

11. Human Resources

Does our Human Resource Strategy reflect environmental leadership capabilities and contribution towards our CSR? For example, is Environmental leadership and accountability incorporated into staff training and managerial compensation?

12. innovation

In areas of corporate innovation, technology and design do we utilise sustainability and environmental thinking to enhance the value of outcomes and safeguard product longevity?

Suggested Training Course: Environmental & Sustainability Strategies for dynamic and innovative Business

Utilising Environmental leadership in Day to Day Business

It is rare to come across a business or organisational leadership group that hasn’t implemented some basic form of environmental management into its operations, and is equally rare to come across a  large corporate body that hasn’t started to report on CSR issues or embed aspects of the sustainability agenda into its ways of business.

What is rare, is to find a leadership group that are maximising the business value of environmental management systems or CSR as additional business tools in pursuit of growth and value. Too often I have found that environmental leadership is entrusted to Environmental, QHSE managers or environmentally responsible advocates further down the management framework. These individuals can deliver spectacular results, but the overall benefits for the organisation will be significantly higher with the committed input of the business’s senior leadership group – they have the power to ‘get green done’ and send out a clear message regarding the environmental leadership culture expected by all employees.

Need Help? Have a look at our Corporate Environmental Leadership for Executives course, amongst other Sustainability Leadership training courses within our Leading Green website.