If business is to be transformational, where do executives and employees start? And if leadership starts coming from the heart as well as the wallet, what do the hands start doing Monday morning? This chapter introduces six practical, tested, strategic steps that any organization, public or private, LLC or PBC, can use to profit from the shift to resource productivity, clean energy, and social co-benefits. The steps progress from changes in what I call the outer level (outside the business' daily boundaries) all the way into the inner level (changes in the internal operating system). Somewhere along the way up the stairs a company could choose to change its articles of association to a benefit corporation. At the top, a company has aligned its core business with the healing growth model.
The six strategic steps are:
1. Outreach: Taking actions that benefit people or the environment but are external to the organization, such as collaborative research and development projects; giving philanthropic support to NGOs, community projects, or churches; engaging in lobbying efforts; improving industry standards; or engaging in voluntary carbon offset schemes.
2. Housekeeping: Cleaning up one's own buildings, workspaces, and assets with environmental and labor management systems that continually improve energy efficiency, safety, compliance, waste handling, regulatory compliance, and governance. A company on this step might install rooftop solar, and improve race and gender balance at executive levels and worker representation on boards.
3. Supply: Setting sustainability requirements for all suppliers; buying fewer but better and longer-lived materials; ensuring fair trade throughout the supply chain. This forces resource productivity and social responsibility from the whole supply chain by leveraging the power of procurement.
4. Operations: Redesigning operations for optimal resource productivity through whole system redesign. In many cases, factor four improvements or better can be found, relative to conventional industrial levels.
5. Product portfolio: Phasing out products that are wasteful in production, in use, or after use, and cannibalizing their market shares with new and innovative products or services.
6. Business models: Shifting the business model toward a dematerialized or circular way of creating more value for all customers and stakeholders, including employees and shareholders. This is the final and most important step.
The six steps can be illustrated with the "stairs model" of healthy growth strategies shown in figure 8.1. Some companies start at the bottom and move up. Others for instance, a new solar energy startup may start at the top with a green-to-the-core business model, then later progress outward to the housecleaning of their offices and outreach. For most conventional organizations, though, transitioning to a healthy growth model means addressing issues at all six levels. The lower three or four steps are focused on being responsible and reducing negative impacts. They are mainly about doing "less bad." The higher steps focus on scaling the positive opportunities of healthy growth: new profitable offerings that make more value for customers by solving their problems in leaner, smarter ways with a net-positive footprint and social benefits. They are about doing "more good," healing the impacted ecosystems, workers, and communities. Since more complex and deeply internal changes always come with risk for unexpected costs, detours, and delays, it may be smart to start with the easy, early wins at lower levels. But moving up the stairs brings ever larger impacts and better financial results. In addition, research shows that when a company starts implementing healthy growth initiatives, employees thrive more at work, improve their productivity, and develop more loyalty to the company.