June 7-9: Learn How Brands are helping consumers lead more sustainable lives

Organizational Change
Making It Stick Internally:
Recognizing and Advancing Maturity Levels of a Sustainability Program

SB’16 San Diego kicked off strong with a morning workshop led by Kevin Wilhelm - CEO of Sustainable Business Consulting - and Kevin Hagen, Director of Corporate Responsibility at Iron Mountain. Together, they have created the Hagen-Wilhelm Matrix – a tool to help organizations not only identify what phase of sustainability they are in but how to advance their organization forward. This matrix moves away from linear sustainability phases offered by other models that map organizations’ sustainability journeys. Organizations are made of dynamic individuals and shifting leadership, which in turn result in dynamic and non-linear sustainability paths.

In addition to their matrix, Wilhelm and Hagen listed their three steps to success:

  1. There’s another step. Sometimes you’re working so hard at leaping into the next pool that you forget that there is another step beyond that. The fact that you know there are more steps coming is really important as the change agent.
  2. What got you here won’t get you there; it will probably stop you. You need to challenge yourself to be self-reflective. What are your strengths? How do you fit into sustainability progress within your organization? To scale progress, you need to think about where you personally are in this process.
  3. You have to learn. Each stage is an opportunity to learn new skills and competencies. Every individual in the company is moving and you can find groups/individuals in the next generation of sustainability. Find them, learn from them, and help them teach the others in sustainability. Hagen summarizes this step as, “You gotta learn what you gotta learn when you gotta learn it.”

In the first interactive activity, workshop participants were challenged to reflect on their own organization and identify which phase they would fall into within each category. One participant quickly realized the complexity of organizational sustainability, stating that various departments within their organization would fall under different phases. Another realized that they are focusing on environmental sustainability but not social. However, the resounding consensus from the group was that their organizations were lagging in the HR category.

In the second activity, participants came up with two actionable next steps to taking their organization to the next phase within each category. Active collaboration across industries within each table provided attendees with external new perspectives that helped inform tangible next steps for their organizations.

The workshop was a great way to start the conference by helping attendees identify their areas of opportunity and understanding that, as the speakers asserted: “You can deliver great business benefit at every stage of this process. Every stage can be successful.”

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