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Where Logic ends: An insight on the Misinformed

“You can not expect any significant progress in sustainability without a Sustainability Manager.” says Maria Svantemark, the CEO and founder of SustainLab, a sustainability data management company, which enables high quality performance metrics for companies looking for accelerated change with their sustainability.- and Mattias Andir, Sustainability Manager, at Trivector LogiQ, a business development consultancy.

WE ARE IN A UNIQUE TIME IN HISTORY right now; a pandemic has paralyzed large parts of the world and the world economy is holding its breath. At the same time, the need for a green transition to secure the future of people on the planet has never been more acute and the importance of effective sustainability work at company level has never been greater. In order to cope with this fundamental change, increased investments and knowledge focused on sustainability issues within companies are required, both in the form of expertise and integration in all business areas.

Sustainability issues are becoming more extensive and complex, which is reflected in the many structural frameworks in the area: the Paris Agreement, the Non-financial Reporting Directive and the EU's Taxonomy for Sustainable Finance, to name a few. At the same time, there is a total confusion about the role of the Sustainability Manager. Conflicting proposals are thrown in from different directions:

  • Sustainability is just a new collective name for quality and the environment
  • Sustainability issues are so central and complex that the CEO has to take responsibility
  • The Sustainability Manager is not needed because the issues must be integrated throughout the business

The latest news in the discussion is taken from NCC, which chooses to get rid of the role of Sustainability Manager with the goal of bringing the issues closer to the customers (AH June 4, 2020). Maersk gave a similar reason when they announced earlier this year that they are firing their Sustainability Manager and closing the sustainability department (DI 14 Jan 2020).

It is naive to believe that the sustainability work will achieve greater results without the Sustainability Manager as a strategic leader. The Sustainability Manager should have overall responsibility for running the business in line with the latest research and ensure that the company benefits from active and continuous sustainability work. The Sustainability Manager should thus have the expert knowledge that guides other activities. It also means that it is on the Sustainability Manager's responsibility to prioritize and direct resources where they are most useful. The strategy is then executed in the different business areas, which does not differ from any other type of strategy implementation. Try to find a CEO who gets rid of the CFO after integrating financial decision making throughout the business.

Perhaps this confusion is based on the varying tasks that the Sustainability Manager is given in different companies. In the worst case, it is a role with both strategic and operational responsibility, which also lacks both mandate and budget to drive change. Even worse is when the Sustainability Manager lacks specific competence in sustainability and is assigned responsibility in addition to their regular role. It is unreasonable to expect wonders with these conditions.

We now have a window of opportunity, an opportunity to rethink the course of the world economy towards a sustainable direction. Successful companies are at the forefront of the development and it is therefore both business critical and socio-economically necessary for the Sustainability Manager to have greater influence in the future. NOW is the time to secure both business and society for the future - which is not done by getting rid of the Sustainability Manager.

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