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  • Justin Wright

‘Total Sustainability’: lessons from the beautiful game

This week, England football coach Gareth Southgate announced his squad for next month’s Euro 2024 tournament. Much of the chatter, in case you missed it, has focused on the contentious inclusions and exclusions of a few individual players. Was he right to leave Rashford at home, not sure about Wharton and who is this Quansah kid anyway? Many of you will be thinking ‘who cares?’, and even as a part-time footy fan I’d have to agree.

 

You see, success or failure for any country at the Euros is very unlikely to be down to any individuals. Instead, it will be decided by the power and cohesion of the collective – whoever creates a genuine team environment over the coming weeks will do well – as Greece proved 20 years ago. The Dutch knew this back in the 70s – with their self-styled ‘Total Football,’ the ultimate team dynamic in which no individual was deemed better than any other, the team always came first, and each player was able to play in the role of any of their teammates.

 

The Dutch ‘Total Football’ team of the 70s – memorable football, unforgettable haircuts.


We’re reminded of this ultimate expression of teamwork as many of our clients seem to be missing a trick when it comes to pursuing their sustainability agendas. All too often we’re seeing individuals working alone, trying to tackle the challenges without the help and support of colleagues from other functions. In some cases, this is due to the embryonic nature of the organisational structure, in others, there is not yet a realisation of the interconnected nature of sustainability. The interdependencies between goals, issue areas and therefore functions within the business becomes ever more apparent to us and to the teams we work with. Collaboration is the name of this particular game, but all too often we hear talk of external collaborations before the foundational internal collaboration has been cracked.


In sustainability there’s no place for the mercurial ‘galacticos’ like Ronaldo or Zidane. Operating alone will not get you to where you need to be. There has to be a team-first mindset that instils the ‘Total Sustainability’ ethos inspired by the Dutch legends of the 70s.

Oh, and whilst we’re on the subject, time to sort the office sweepstake and get those ‘working from home’ days etched in the calendar!


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