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Reject the status quo: bravery will build sustainable business

22 July 2020

A new report from leading voices in sustainability in the UK has found that bravery and a willingness to reject the status quo are vital if businesses are to respond in a meaningful way to the combined pressures of the global pandemic and the climate emergency.

In ‘Bold Thinking, Brave Action’, specialists Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) and Forster Communications interviewed 11 leading figures in sustainability from across a host of UK businesses to create a blueprint for turning a desire to “build back better” into reality. Participants included representatives from Anglian Water, Ella’s Kitchen, Iceland Foods, ITV, Reckitt Benckiser and Royal Bank of Scotland.

The report identifies five attributes common to everyone who challenges the status quo; conviction, humility, imagination, integrity and passion. It highlighted that sustainability leaders should expect to shift their behaviours across their career to meet changing needs and organisational conditions.

CAF and Forster have created five composite characters to help people working in sustainability think about the role they play and how best to take action:

  • The Firebrand – led by a strong sense of what is right and wrong and takes great effort to stick to their moral compass, thinking big and taking on a personal risk
  • The Campaigner – acts like an organisation’s conscience and is driven by a strong sense of values, also taking a personal risk, building movements and constantly pushing for change
  • The Collectivist – believes in the power of people and sets out to achieve outcomes that benefit everyone through collaboration, sharing and movement building
  • The Strategist – processes a mass of information before acting and, through analysis and reflection, identifies and prioritises the most important changes and effective ways to bring them about
  • The Wayfinder – disciplined and diligent, often working quietly behind the scenes so the organisation can move at speed when the time is right

The study participants also said the depth and pace of change that is required to keep up with public attitudes and stakeholder concerns on climate change and other social responsibility goals was best achieved when key voices – with relevant expertise – held board level positions. As one contributor said:  “The big game changer for us on sustainability was when the management team set and published some big hairy goals.”

The experts also singled out the importance of ‘psychological safety’ with businesses who genuinely want change needing to show that people who push bold ideas and challenge existing practices will not face recriminations. One commented: “The first condition (for bravery) is creating a climate of safety for people – not fearing for your job if you take risks.”

Speaking about the findings, Forster Communications CEO, Amanda Powell Smith said:

“Build back better is a phrase with a massive set of expectations and challenges, and sustainability leaders are at the centre. Our contributors have highlighted that whatever role they are playing, personal conviction, imagination and integrity are critical to maintaining their focus and resilience. Bravery comes in many forms – from up front and in-your-face to quiet back-office determination – but it starts with a desire to challenge the status quo.”

KLARA2Klara Kozlov, Head of Corporate Clients & Consultancy at CAF, said:

“Bravery is an intrinsic part of a journey that sustainability practitioners find themselves on. In our work we meet so many who are deeply committed to helping their organisations tackle critical social and environment challenges, but often find themselves blocked. We have created this report to support, inspire and encourage individuals to think about what their organisation needs now and where they can best focus their skills to get the change they want.”

Contributors to the report are: Andy Brown, David Croft, Hil Berg, Julia Giannini, Kate Levine, Kirsty Britz, Leslie Johnston, Mark Cuddigan, Matthew Cole, Mike Barry and Sophi Tranchell.

‘Bold Thinking, Brave Action’ is available to download at: https://www.cafonline.org/bravery
 

Challenging the status quo - diagram 1

About CAF

CAF exists to make giving go further so that more lives and communities around the world can be transformed. CAF is a charity and champion for better giving, and for over 90 years has helped donors, companies, charities and social organisations make a bigger impact.  Through CAF Bank it offers simple and straightforward day-to-day banking designed exclusively for charities.  We are CAF and we make giving count.

   
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact:

Caroline Mallan
cmallan@cafonline.org
Mobile: 07921 315 344

Dan Slipper
dslipper@cafonline.org
Mobile: 07986 335 390

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