The challenges we are facing are enormous. The climate is changing, and we all notice that. There is a need to accelerate. And in order to preserve our planet, we also have to transform our economy into a Circular Economy. Sustainability University’s research among more than hundred CSR and sustainability managers in the Netherlands shows that companies are slow in embedding CSR and must invest in developing specific skills to achieve this.
The yearly survey conducted by the Sustainability University among a large group of sustainability or CSR managers in the Netherlands shows that, on average, they believe that embedding CSR in their company is still in its early stages. There is only a slight improvement in 2019 compared to 2018, even though we have to accelerate. Zooming in on the business processes there is a big difference in integration of CSR. Embedding CSR in general management, strategy and public affairs is further developed, according to the CSR manager. IT and finance however have low CSR integration. This is an area of concern, as finance is a very important process in determining future investments and looking into societal business cases and business models.
Less attention for circular economy and social responsibility
The survey also shows that companies spent more time on the topic of energy transition than on circular economy or social responsibility. This can be explained by the fact that the energy and climate agenda has been the subject of attention for some time. In addition, changes that are necessary for the energy transition in companies are often less complex and can be integrated into the existing, linear organisation. Changing to a circular economy impacts all business processes and requires different behaviour and a different way of working of all the employees.
Other competencies necessary
Changing companies means changing the people who work in those companies and who ultimately have to do things differently. Different from what they were used to and probably different from what they were trained for. They must work in a circular, climate neutral and inclusive way. This first applies to the CSR manager, who must initiate and embed the sustainable transition in the organisation. The study shows that the CSR manager who focuses on energy transition needs different competencies “the ability to perform effectively” than the person who focuses on circularity or social responsibility. For the circular economy, “systems thinking” is mentioned as the most important competency. This is “foresight thinking” for the topic of energy and climate and “interpersonal skills” for social responsibility.
Invest in specific competencies to accelerate sustainable business
This research focuses on the sustainability professional. They will first have to acquire the relevant competencies, but ultimately all employees will have to be able to work in a circular, inclusive and climate-neutral manner and will need these ‘sustainability competencies‘. If companies want to speed up the transition, investments will have to be made in the training and development of skills of their human capital.