|John Elkington Presents: “6 Ways For Business Leaders To Talk About Sustainability” in the Sustainability / Strategies Series From the Influential Harvard Business Review…
By Hank Boerner of the Governance and Accountability, Inc.
“The” voice of authority for many board members and C-suite executives is The Harvard Business Review. Sustainability pioneer and influential thought leader John Elkington in the current “HBR” talks about the practice of “issues framing” at the highest levels of the corporation, and suggests (to leaders) that to change our usual way of perceiving, prioritizing and investing time/effort/money, that “re-framing” for social change is the wave of the future.
Note that social commentator and author George Lakoff (writing in “How to Think Like An Elephant”) suggested the theme of re-framing our reasoning and setting of priorities. The HRB piece builds on that and takes us to the new frontier for corporate strategy-setting.
John Elkington writing in HBR sees six mainframes at work in the sustainable business space, each with strengths and limitations. These are: (1) the Resources Frame; (2) the Time Frame; (3) the Value Frame; (4) the Design Frame; (5) the Abundance Frame; (6) the Moral Frame.
Each is described with current and historical examples, and the strengths and challenges posed as we consider the frame. The “break” needed, Elkington advises, is from set-in-your-ways thinking and planning and strategizing on critical issues — such as global warming — to new ways of Framing. Greater understanding of the different mental and political “framing” currently in play is important in considering the shift.
And so, a first step is to consideration of resources and population growth and the pressure on available resources and the resilience of key eco-systems. (The Resource Framing). Then from this to the Timing Frame. Elkington’s suggestion is to shift from short-term to longer-term planning and strategizing and to focus on the Sustainable Development Goals with time their widely-adopted time horizon out to 2030. And then on the other four Framings, which we recommend for your reading and thinking about.
HBR makes available reprints of this and other Elkington articles in the “Strategy & Execution” series. Check the titles in: https://hbr.org/search?term=john+elkington
As we noted up top, the HBR is really an influence in corporate boardrooms and C-Suite — think about the powerful impact of the “Shared Value” concept introduced by Professor Michael Porter in the HBR pages a few years ago.
John Elkington is Chair and “Chief Pollinator” at Volans. He gave us such terms (now widely-used) as “Triple Bottom Line” and “People / Planet / Profits” in his earlier work. His current book is “The Breakthrough Challenge: 10 Ways to Connect Today’s Profits With Tomorrow’s Bottom Line.”
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