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Ten Questions for Baking Social and Ecological Context into Strategy

A group of corporate strategists formulated 10 questions that could be incorporated into any company’s strategy process to bake in social and ecological context.

A perennial debate in sustainably circles is how to bake good intentions into strategy, to ensure that efforts go beyond mere words, tokenism, or even contradiction. The issue is not merely one of consistency. Businesses are not islands of economic activity to be individually maximized. They exist within the larger systems of the financial economy, society, and nature and in the long term are dependent upon their health, prosperity, and support. A strategy cannot be sustainable therefore unless this broader context is imported into and is the basis for strategy formulation.

At the World Economic Forum’s Industry Strategy Meeting, a group of corporate strategists, facilitated by Knut Haanaes of the WEF’s Global Leadership Institute and BHI’s Martin Reeves, formulated 10 questions which could be incorporated into any company’s strategy process to ensure consilience between the broader context and enterprise strategy.

  • Does our purpose lead to sustainable value creation? Is our self-interest aligned with social value?
  • Are we “on purpose” and, if not, are we taking the corrective action accordingly?
  • Are those actions sufficient in impact and speed?
  • Are we defining the boundary of what we measure and manage appropriately?
  • Are other stakeholders represented in or part of our strategy process?
  • Are we measuring the long-term competitiveness of the business? Have we balanced the present and the future?
  • Where does our business model fail first as a result of ESG-related risks?
  • How will we address this weakness with sustainable business model innovation?
  • Do we have the right collective action platforms to address pressing problems?
  • Are exercising corporate statesmanship to effect external change?
Sources & Notes