The worst thing a company can do is publicly set an ambitious goal before benchmarking existing performance. Instead, to understand what is achievable, companies should invest time and money defining relevant sustainability metrics for a given business and identifying how to gather them. This might require companies to perform an audit of practices within their supply chain, creation of sound data templates and capacity enhancement of the data owners in each case.
Stakeholders will reward a well-thought-out ESG plan over a rushed and glossy one.
4. Take the initiative
As governments across the MENA region seek to transition their economies toward greener, more sustainable models, regulators are gearing up to introduce sustainability requirements. Rather than waiting for these regulations to appear, companies should get a head start, with strategies that articulate the role the company will play in the new economy.
Here, the region can learn from its energy giants. State-owned energy companies have faced less pressure than publicly listed oil majors in Europe and the US to deal with emissions. Nevertheless, they have taken the lead on the topic, voluntarily announcing targets and initiatives rather than waiting for pressure to build.
It is important to have a sound governance structure to drive the ESG agenda within the organization. Clear definition of roles and responsibilities, board oversight, dedicated committees, capacity and skill development, and proper infrastructure and tools to support the strategic plans are a must requirement for a successful transformation to happen.
5. Embed sustainability in workplace culture
Sustainability should not only be an agenda item of the core sustainability team in any organization, but needs buy-in and participation of everyone to be successful. In current times, this is not a difficult ask, as their internal stakeholders (especially millennials) are giving a lot of importance to this theme. For instance, at a recent town hall for MENA employees of a global company, half of the questions raised were about the company’s sustainability goals. In common with their peers across the world, the region’s youngest generations are increasingly preoccupied with sustainable business practices.
Companies need to recognize this and embed sustainability within offices and facilities, as well as operational activities, in order to attract and retain the best young talent.