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  • Justin Wright

Fear factor – why scaling back on sustainability is scarier than one might think

We get asked a lot about sustainability investment and the impact of performance pressures and market downturns. It goes without saying that, in many large companies, when times are tough, investment in anything long term tends to take a back seat. The case for sustainability is complex and the benefits largely long term so sustainability suffers. This has a direct impact on progress and is a bad thing.

This week however, we have been reflecting on the indirect cost of scaling back on investment in sustainability.

The challenge is that with sustainability, it is not just about the money it is about values and trust. Sustainability is based on a vision of the future in which investors customer and employees, in particular, buy into. Pulling back can be very damaging in these relationships and impact wider performance.

The (rather dubious) illustration below shows this.  For employees, motivation can be a leaky bucket. A clear sense of purpose, underpinned by trust, communication and appreciation of work to date, help keep it topped up. This drives performance and good will. Scaling back investment in sustainability cuts the flow into the bucket and starts to get people worrying (what does this mean? were sustainability commitments real or “greenwashing”? does the business really value this?). Fear and worry start to impact performance and goodwill. Much has been made of company values and sustainability in recruitment and staff retention, less about the fears created by scaling back on sustainability investment or targets…

In the news.. (seems to be lots of arguments this week)


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