3 silly ideas business leaders tell themselves

We all have things we tell ourselves that are no good to us. They are often not even true and hinder our business success and personal achievements. But they are ingrained and need to be challenged for us to question them. Here are three that many business leaders suffer from and why they don’t hold water.

Silly idea #1: It will be really costly to integrate sustainability into the business and will yield a very poor return.

I have never come across a company where there were now low hanging fruits to start with that required very little investment. For sure there are also steps that can be taken that requires a significant investment. The key thing is to make sure every step creates business value with embedded environmental impact. Follow this rule of thumb and your investments will be valuable as they solve key business issues for you or your customers.

Very often the idea that is will be costly comes out of a lack of knowledge about and lack of understanding of sustainability as a fundamental business agenda. Not particularly strange has the vast majority of business leaders have never had any training on sustainability in business. And most consultants you can hire will either be really good at the technical/environmental side or at the management consulting side. Unfortunately, we are quite few that have our feed solid planted in both disciplines.

Therefore, many business leaders experience that the effort that is choose delivers little value. Often more because of what is done and by whom than the amount of resources poured into the effort. You can read more about this situation here if you like.

And for the part about sustainability yield a very poor return. When done right it is transformation for a company. I have former clients and people in my network that continuously report about best quarters, new awards they are nominated for or have won or how they make it through a crisis in their industry significantly better than their peers.

But even when you just go about in a pretty straight forward way it delivers. Here are some findings coming out of a literature review we did to see if my experiences over the years could be back by bigger studies.

  1. Implementing circularity in processes leads to reduction in production costs. Conclusion based on more than 13.000 companies.
  2. Circularity leads to an increased productivity finds a study of more than 4.200 companies
  3. Sustainable measures lead to increase in sales. This is a conclusion after looking at more than 11.000 companies. And this is just simple initiatives like using renewable energies, or recycling or designing products that are easier to maintain, repair, or reuse.
  4. Introducing sustainable practices leads to improved reputation with customers for more than half of 500 studies companies and for about 1/3 this has already led to greater sales
  5. 80% of the manufacturing firms said they had already seen commercial benefits from implementing environmentally responsible programs. This is from a survey amongst 601 UK business leaders

We also found similar results from lager companies and from studies and reports outside Europe.

Silly idea #2: I must be perfect before I start to communicate about sustainability

Wrong! Nobody is perfect and nobody expect you to be. What the marked do expect it that you play a bigger game and somehow contribute to making the world a better place and that you demonstrate progress. As soon as you have an interesting an appealing mission that is bigger than yourself and have the first results to show for, you can invite your customers into your journey.

I remember listing to Michael Aastrup from Desso (now a part of Tarkett and one of the world’s biggest carpet manufactures) about a decade ago talking about how they from the point of decision about engaging in cradle to cradle and circular economy said they would do it with the customers. They started talking about their vision right away and attracted customers and partner that wanted to join them or where on the same path. And I have seen it many times since – it always creates positive momentum.

True, there are lots of examples of companies that have hurt themselves in their communication about sustainability. But there is a reason for that. There are do’s and don’ts when it comes to communicating sustainability.


Don’t use broad sentences like “we are sustainable” or “this product is sustainable” or “this is a climate-friendly product” or “this is a green product”.

Don’t claim something you can’t back by evidence/data and your actions

Don’t do superficial stuff and continue business as usual. I will even say, don’t do a lighthouse project and then continues business as usual.


Do be specific and talk about the results you have created

Do put it in context of a bigger goal that shows you contribute to making the world a better place

Do be transparent and prepared to show data to back your statements

Do translate so it is not just the environmental difference you communicate – but the impact it has for them.

What you need

In order to be ready to go out and communicate and harness the power that comes with it, you need a clear and attractable mission statement, a trustworthy pathway on how to get there, some specific results that you can talk about, and then, of course, the ability to communicate clearly around it.

How would you score yourself on these parameters? Do you have a clear and appealing mission? Do you have a clear pathway on how to get there to create specific results to show and do you know how to communicate it?

If not, then you are not alone. The good news is that it can be fixed

I have created a simple scorecard for you where you can go in and answer 30 rapid-fire questions and you will get a score on how well you are doing on these foundations for creating business success with sustainability.

You will also get recommendations for the next steps depending on the score you have.

It is free and will only take you a few minutes. You can find it here: greenprofit.scoreapp.com

Silly idea #3: It will only be a branding exercise.

Coming out of the answer to the first silly question it seems quite obvious that this is not the case. But the idea is not pulled out of thin air as many companies address sustainability as a brand exercise and anchor it in marketing. Perhaps even hire a marketing agency to help them with it. And as the saying goes – to a guy with a hammer everything looks like a nail.

So, they look at it from a communications and marketing point of view to spot initiatives that fits nicely with advertising. Unfortunately, I find that this approach misleads the company. Not that there is anything wrong with connecting marketing and sales to the sustainability work. On the contrary – that is essential. But there is an order to things, and it does not start with marketing. And more importantly, it should be owned by the top management ideally the CEO as this is a business development agenda much broader than the brand.

If you want to gain transformational results with sustainability you have to address it the right way. There is a recipe to follow that predictably will give you results. It consists of five steps that you can work with on your own or choose to join my “Comptetive Edge Generator” program if you would like support and to do it with other business leaders in a structure business consulting program. It is built around these five steps or principles:

Step One, Mindset: We’ll start by developing the insights and ideas you need to think strategically about sustainability and discover new opportunities with it.

Step Two, Mission: Then, I’ll help you develop a north star mission statement grounded in sustainability to inspire and guide your people and resources.

Step Three, Mapping: I’ll show you how to bring those big ideas down to earth and turn them into an effective business strategy.

Step Four, Movement: Engaging stakeholders and kickstarting implementation, I’ll show you how to galvanize people and operationalize change.

Step Five, Magnify: Finally, I’ll set you up to promote your accomplishments and position your company on the right side of sustainability.

If you would like to know more about what is behind each of the five principles, you can join me on one of the introductory workshops I run. It is online, free, and takes 50 minutes. You will walk away with clarity on each of them and can start to work on them.

Book your seat here