How to Run a Profitable Business and Put Sustainability at the Center of Your Strategy
The “Netguru take on…” is a series explaining how Netguru approaches important subjects that are often overused or misunderstood in the industry such as digital transformation, innovation, or strategy.
We break them down to shift the discussion from abstract concepts to tangible actions that influence our everyday work. This article provides our take on sustainability.
Meet Karolina - a sustainability professional
Karolina Długosz has been leading Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability programs for Danone and Capgemini for over a decade.
As the Sustainability Lead at Netguru, Karolina has successfully guided the company through the B Corp Certification process. On a daily basis, she ensures that sustainability is embedded in all of Netguru’s processes.
“We shouldn't perceive sustainability as an area that has only collateral actions, initiatives, and programs,”
says Karolina. ”It's not about an act of charity or giving donations separately from the core business. It’s about keeping social and environmental commitment in the heart of the company's business strategy.”
Making a company’s impact sustainable
Sustainability is often solely and incorrectly associated with environmental matters, but its scope and meaning are much broader.
“A sustainable company is a business that takes responsibility for the entire impact it has on the world,”
Karolina explains. “There are five areas of a company’s influence in the B Corp model: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. Sustainability combines them all to manage a business in a way that maximizes its long-term positive outcome”.
Therefore, the sustainability team should never be siloed or detached from the company’s operations.
Karolina frequently cooperates with heads of all Netguru departments to help them identify opportunities to improve the performance of their teams. Running one-time actions might yield some immediate gains but these are typically short-lived, being lost as quickly as they were obtained.
“We are so used to looking for quick wins, but only incorporating sustainability guidelines into the business processes gives a chance to make lasting change at scale,” says Karolina.
"For example, in HR — do your recruitment and promotion processes reduce biased decisions to give equal opportunities to everyone?"
"In Delivery — how do you ensure that your product is inclusive or healthy? In Supply Chain — do you define and meet ethical standards of client relations across the entire value chain?"
These are sustainability-related questions that all companies need to face, and finding the answers to them might not be just a matter of doing the right thing, but a matter of survival.
Sustainability is a must
There is no doubt that the profit maximization rule in business brought us to the verge of a global catastrophe. Karolina points out that:
“We, as humanity, exploited our planet, we drained our supply chains,"
Karolina emphasizes. "The goal of sustainable development is the opposite: creating a system where we don’t deplete resources but use them smartly and definitely use less of them."
Companies that embrace sustainability in their business strategy create a sustainable future for humanity or at least do not contribute to worsening the living conditions for people and destroying the planet.
For those not yet convinced: sustainability is also necessary to comply with ethical principles and a growing number of legal regulations. The more we understand the causes of humanity’s negative impact, the more authorities will try to prevent it. Karolina adds: “The EU law already requires large companies to disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental challenges.
Finally, the pressure for a sustainable approach comes from all directions, not only governments and international agencies. Companies look for it when choosing their suppliers.
Consumers expect it from businesses they engage with. It becomes an important factor in choosing an employer.
"We need this kind of push to make a sustainable business roll, otherwise many will keep doing only the least that is mandated by authorities,"
explains Karolina. "Growing the scale is important. It changes what is considered normal, because normal usually refers to what the majority does. And everybody now agrees we need a new normal," explains Karolina.
Getting started is easier than it seems
Weaving sustainability into business operations and building a sustainable supply chain might seem daunting. Karolina provides three tips that can help every company get started:
1. Be aware of your impact
“Understand where and how you influence the world. Look at your value chain, examine the key areas to map the opportunities for sustainability.
The free B Impact Assessment can guide you with questions in 5 areas designed for this purpose — some of them will surely surprise you!"
2. Don't be afraid to challenge the status quo
“It is difficult to convince people to invest in long term wins, no matter how big they can be. It requires perseverance, courage to take risks, and openness to change. Cultivating a culture that empowers people to critique non-sustainable processes, openly share ideas on how to fix them, and start doing things differently helps a lot.”
3. Define and monitor
“Identify what you want to achieve, communicate what you want to focus on, and measure it. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel — a lot has been done already. The world’s problems are named, for example in the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Ask yourself — what is the area with the most material impact you already have within those?”
Becoming a Certified B Corp
Netguru has been certified as B Corp in 2020, joining the community of over 3,200 companies in the world that have committed to developing a sustainable economy model.
Karolina recalls: “The whole process took us six months. First, we needed to go through all the assessment questions and understand where we are. Then we created a sustainability agenda and took action to strengthen it in different areas of the company.” Today our vision is clear: a sustainable digital world where everyone can realize their full potential.
While most of the transformational efforts will take time before bringing any outcome, there are some immediate benefits.
“It’s easier to build effective partnerships with purpose-driven clients,” says Karolina.“Maintaining a B Corp Certification can greatly reduce the process of supplier verification in the sustainability area”.
Netguru has already passed an external audit of B Corp Assessment and is ready for reexamination every three years. It means the company can be added as a part of a sustainable supply chain.
This enables a quick scale-up of a business ecosystem with partners that care for their impact. “We want to support purpose-driven companies, and vice-versa: companies that are committed to social or environmental causes want to work with us,” concludes Karolina.
The ideas of building an inclusive community, reinventing an organization to increase its positive impact, and using technology for good causes have been central to Netguru’s history since its inception. Developing the sustainability agenda has further helped the company to focus on making the world a better place.