Environmental issues – a matter for the boardroom

With the United Nations’ 2030 Sustainable Development Goals just a little more than a decade away, the time for addressing environmental issues and acting on them is now. It is astounding to learn that a majority of today’s organisations do not discuss environmental impact in the boardroom. Opportunity knocks for those willing to make a positive change.

The Alumni / Harvey Nash Board Report for 2018/19 is out, titled ‘The Uncomfortable Boardroom – The New Normal?’. The research represents the views of more than 674 chairs and non-executive directors. 

One of the study’s findings shows that 56 per cent of respondents have spent zero hours discussing environmental impact in the boardroom. Even though current climate projections for global warming will be disastrous for both business and society.

Ethics not being quantified

We all know that organisations have the power to change the world for the better. What we also know is that setting the culture and tone of the organisation is the responsibility of the board. However, in boardrooms, the discussion of ethics is often detached from organisational realities and rarely evaluated nor quantified. Consequently, the opportunity of ethics generating greater business performance goes out the window. Still, 77 per cent of respondents in the survey recognise that by doing so would increase employee engagement and improve brand reputation. 

A majority of respondents have spent zero hours discussing environmental impact in the boardroom.

Obviously, organisations must rethink what it means to do ‘good business’. Traditional corporate social responsibility activities are no longer enough – you should also consider how your organisation delivers positive economic, social and environmental impact in the world.  

Part of the problem or part of the solution? 

Ultimately, organisations can choose to be part of the problem or part of the solution. There’s no ignoring climate change, even though it might at times feel distant and intangible. Increasingly unpredictable and extreme weather conditions are early indicators of how climate change and resource shortages will affect every step of the supply chain.  

Setting up a plan for how your organisation can be part of the solution will embed sustainability throughout the business. It’s important to keep in mind that consumers, employees, investors and activists have the power to effect change. Boards must understand this when setting their decision-making agenda. With millennials demanding ethical and environmentally friendly employers, organisations (not to mention the planet) can really benefit from making environmental issues a matter for the boardroom.