Long-Term Management Commitment to Sustainability

Many big companies have a long term commitment to sustainability. Research (MIT, UNEP and BCG 2015) shows that 42 % of the boards are committed to sustainability and that 31 % of the companies have operational KPIs related to sustainability. Still, support from senior management really is a prerequisite for having an impact; some experienced corporate LCA practitioners have been able to connect to the long-term goals of the company. They learned that management likes facts; facts can help them to make the right, informed decisions about sustainability. And facts are something LCA can deliver, sometimes with some uncertainty, which is something management has learnt to deal with.

Thus, LCA and LCM can play an important role on the road to achieving sustainability goals. We all know the examples of companies that use LCA or LCM in their sustainability strategy. At the same time there are still many companies that do not build their sustainability strategy on sound and robust figures. They follow what others are saying and doing or one of the latest trends with less consistent and transparent methods to measure. So, there is an opportunity for all LCA practitioners because they know the facts and can show something else than what you would expect or what everyone else is doing.

For companies that already use LCA, top management is not only committed to sustainability, but also to LCA. The survey PRé conducted in 2014 shows that in 57 % of the companies that use LCA, management is aware of LCA. So, LCA is on the agenda in the majority of the companies. Finding an internal sponsor in the (top) management can accelerate the use of LCA in the business. That will definitely help you to deliver value for the business.

Shared Language

Business and LCA have two totally different languages, or as we would say in LCA – nomenclature. As LCA practitioners we know what happens when you do not have the nomenclature right; things get mixed up. So, make sure you understand and capture the language from the people that use your studies (Fig. 9.1).

As Gregory Unruh (2014) puts it in a series “Each functional area has its own conversation built on terminology and jargon suited to their specific business concerns. ….tap into these functional conversations and help managers develop what can be called a sustainability dialect that translates corporate sustainability goals into the local functional discussions and thinking.”

Speaking the same language also helps to embed LCA in the core processes of these departments. Only if it is embedded the full potential can be achieved. Only if it is embedded these departments will see and experience the potential of LCA or even sustainability. If not, LCA will probably stay a staff driven “exercise”.

Fig. 9.1 Different needs and language of departments in a company

This transition is not something that can be achieved overnight. It requires a good radar to sense what is important for people, not only functional but also personal. Sharing – or at least understanding – the same language is really essential to pick up the signals. It also requires a step-by-step approach to link the results from LCA to the objectives and language of these departments or even the corporate strategy.

Next we will describe what such an approach could look like.

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