Since I took up the exhilarating challenge of being CSO at BT last year, I’ve had a lot of people ask this question.
For me, the C-level role implies board level responsibility and accountability, which in turn shows that sustainability is an issue the business is really serious about. The title also implies having the budget and resources at your disposal to put ideas into practice. It can be so frustrating in the sustainability world without concrete means to make a difference.
So, how can a CSO practically drive change? I believe you need a unifying ideology the whole business can get behind. You need to make sure that there is a higher purpose everyone can relate to, from the guy who drives your vans, to the guy who is up to his nose in a bundle of wires in some innovation facility.
Another core driver is building flexibility and engagement – finding different ways to talk to different people. Companies might have already looked at cost transformation but sustainability enables a different perspective and allows you to ask “what is our exposure to spiralling resource costs in the medium and long term, and how can we build a business model that ring fences or mitigates that risk?”
The current model of global growth is not capable of scaling up and the adaptation needed can’t be delivered through analogue systems that don’t connect together. This means ICT companies can really help to drive change for the better.
What we need is a network which will deliver what is needed when it is needed, resolve imbalances between demand and supply, eradicate inefficiencies in the supply chain and also to create a more conscientious and collaborative demand model for consumers.
The role of smart technology – such as smart traffic management – can save companies money in terms of fuel and carbon, but can also be a user satisfaction story.
I see the importance and power of networks to be one of the most exciting areas for sustainability at the moment, which is why I am devoting such a strong focus to it in my work for BT and beyond in 2012.