Going Beyond Green: Experts Urge Corporations to Adopt Sustainability as Core Operating Principle or Risk Obsolescence

EZI NEW YORK, NY, Jan 2011: Corporations must swiftly incorporate sustainability methods throughout their entire organization or risk obsolescence, according to sustainability experts at Egon Zehnder International, an executive search firm. Those companies that recognize sustainability as a business imperative and implement strategic sustainability initiatives will drive superior business performance.

"Although many companies are now advancing aggressively on sustainability, some continue to view the topic as a troublesome compliance requirement or philanthropic excess," according to Christoph Lueneburger, leader of the global Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder International. "Those who fail to recognize that sustainability initiatives can raise a company's productivity, efficiency, business reputation and shareholder value will lose ground to their competitors," he added.

"One of the key barriers to creating a sustainable organization is defining sustainability," said Lueneburger. "This means admitting what is not being done, determining what needs to be done and then sharing both with stakeholders," he added. Click here to view an interview with Christoph Lueneburger.

Companies that have managed to make dialogue about sustainability vibrant at every level of the organization discovered that having the right talent is key to their success. "Going green is important but sustainability also includes human capital and what types of leaders are needed to be prepared for the challenges of tomorrow because that is ultimately what it means to be sustainable," Lueneburger added. "In addition, companies that have built sustainability into their DNA and brand find it far easier to attract and retain the best young talent entering the work force. This is a value that resonates deeply with the next generation of leaders."

Based on research and a series of in-depth interviews conducted with leading sustainability executives in the Americas and Europe, Egon Zehnder has developed a sustainability model which includes three district phases to implementing sustainability initiatives and each requires a different set of leadership competencies.

In the early phase, executives need to make the case for change, so collaboration and influencing skills are essential, along with the ability to lead change. Successful leaders in the intermediate phase must be results oriented and motivated by how to turn sustainability into a competitive advantage. The focus is on strategic orientation in the advanced phase, according to experts at Egon Zehnder. Leaders in this phase must pursue long term investments and partnerships.

Global Sustainability Practice
Christoph Lueneburger, leader of the Global Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder International, has published numerous articles in publications including Environmental Finance, Corporate Responsibility Magazine, People & Strategy and The Deal. He is the lead author of "Sustainability: different leadership skills needed at every state" (MIT Sloan Management Review), an article co-authored by Daniel Goleman, author of Ecological Intelligence and Emotional Intelligence.

Egon Zehnder International has uniquely robust methodology to measure leadership competencies that complement and transcend environmental expertise. Why is this important? Executives must leverage diverse strengths over time to both resolutely cultivate and effectively implement a sustainability strategy. The Global Sustainability Practice has developed the Sustainability Pulse Check, a diagnostic tool used with clients to assess the level of engagement across their organizations around sustainability.

The Sustainability Practice at Egon Zehnder works with companies to:

  • Pinpoint your company's organizational readiness to pursue sustainability as a commercial theme
  • Map the untapped commercial potential and the leadership competencies essential to fulfilling your sustainability strategies - now and in the future
  • Benchmark your existing team against best-in-class
  • Develop your current leaders to excel at sustainability leadership
  • Attract external candidates who demonstrably possess the experience and competencies to create exceptional business value through sustainability.

Sustainability is a core expertise across all the practice groups of Egon Zehnder International. The entire firm operates as a single profit center, which both encourages and rewards collaboration. The global network of consultants works as one to help integrate sustainability into a client's business strategy by matching talent to vision. For more information visit: www.egonzehnder.com/us/practices/functionalpractices/sustainability

Egon Zehnder International is one of the largest privately-held executive search firms in the world with nearly 400 consultants operating from 63 wholly owned offices in 37 countries. The firm specializes in senior-level executive search, board consulting and director search, management appraisals, and talent management. Egon Zehnder International's clients range in size from the world's largest corporations to emerging growth companies to government and regulatory bodies and major educational and cultural organizations. Egon Zehnder International has sector specialists organized into global practices. These include Industrial, Financial Services, Consumer, Life Sciences, Technology & Communications, Services, Private Capital and Sovereign Wealth Funds. For more information visit: www.egonzehnder.com.

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