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  • Nick Pye

Growing pains – on scaling sustainability

A quick piece to share some reflections on some of the growing pains we are seeing associated with scaling of #sustainability.

In the last 18-months, across a wide range of sectors, we have seen something of a shift from #startup to #scaleup - in terms of both mentality and investment.

You might recognise the “start-up” phase - it is typically manifested by sustainability...

- ...being led by a few passionate and/or knowledgeable people driving change….

- ...often sitting a little outside of BAU (loosely housed in a range of functions across both supply and demand sides of a business)

- ...having limited resources – often leveraging/reallocating existing headcount/budgets etc

- tending to be highly project/issue based

As “start-up” teams starts to reveal the true extent of change which is required to reach often, very stretching goals, many companies are significantly scaling up efforts. This is very good news as it leads to more fundamental change and greater impact.

However, we have started to see some challenges emerging as the stakes get higher, structures formalise, teams scale, and investment is more significant.

We are seeing two key themes:

1. Investment and the creation of specialist teams looking at impact beyond just #carbon (increasing into #social and #nature/#biodiversity) and increasing focus measurement of impact. This is absolutely the right thing to do, but it can lead to the creation of #silos (with implications of duplication and reputational risk as “the head is not talking to the hand”).

2. Sustainability spreading to the wider organisation with the implication that less expert teams engaging with sustainability in a more meaningful way. Again this is good news as more people owning the agenda should mean more #progress… but the involvement of less expert teams can increase the risk of unintentional #greenwashing or mixed messages

We see a few interventions which are smoothing the transition from start up to scale up in sustainability:

1. #Strategy - an emphasis on seeking clarity and focus by calling out the relative importance/interplay of targets/trade-offs and connections to commercial strategy. This impacts decision-making & investment, ways of working & accountabilities and measurement.

2. #Innovation – examination and exploration of the ways and means to create new ways of doing new things and perhaps more critically, in impact terms, new ways of doing the things which make the core tick…

3. #Capability - moving from capability work which is more general and focussed on awareness to a greater focus on application and solutions in the context of a specific business or industry.

To find about more about the ‘start up to scale up challenge’ please DM me or any of the Mangrove Consulting team or email or see


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