09-05-19 DI Business News

Blog: Three tips for becoming a sustainable manager

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have changed our understanding of growth and introduced a new rulebook for management. Head of Management Development at the Confederation of Danish Industry Kinga Szabo Christensen blogs about how only a manager focused on sustainability can lead a sustainable organisation towards a sustainable future.

This creates new demands for the modern manager: Only a manager focused on sustainability can lead a sustainable organisation towards a sustainable future.

Just like so many others, the Confederation of Danish Industry has worked intensively with the SDGs throughout the past year. The small, colourful pins have popped up everywhere, not least on lapels among management. This is because the SDGs make sense – also from a managerial perspective – and they add a whole new dimension to the job. It’s no longer “enough” just to be a good manager. In the future, managers must also serve as role models for sustainable development.

A personal choice

Many of the managers I meet ask me: What is sustainable management?

It’s a good and complex question, which I myself as a manager am also searching for a clearcut answer to. 

Meanwhile, one thing is certain: Sustainable management is here to stay. Head of Management Development at the Confederation of Danish Industry Kinga Szabo Christensen

At times we can get caught up in thinking too much about what we create as managers, and too little about what we leave behind. For me personally, it’s what we leave behind that requires focus.

Sustainable management requires a new mindset in which we as managers think holistically about our business and the footprint it leaves on the world. 

I believe that sustainability must be thought into every single part of the organisation – from talent development to corporate branding to production. This is essential, because sustainable management is the way to secure the future of our business while retaining our competitiveness.

The SDGs must be a personal choice for the managers of the future, because it’s the responsibility of the manager to influence the organisation and anchor sustainability in its culture. As a manager, it’s your job to take the lead in ensuring a sustainable direction for development. 

Just think if all businesses were to only develop products and services that contribute to one or more of the UN’s seventeen SDGs.

Take the leap

Dear managers, we’ve got to take the leap into sustainable management, because that is the future. I’ve put together a recipe for you with three pieces of advice:

1. Think big

It takes courage to engage in an agenda as big and far-reaching as the SDGs. At the same time, it also requires serious ambition which may force you to confront previously held convictions. Ask yourself this: Am I courageous and ambitious enough to move outside the bounds of usual operations? What positive impact could I have outside the normal framework? The SDGs are also about you, and all of us must dare to move beyond the usual.

2. Think agile

Rapid transformations only permit us to follow a long-term strategy if we are agile along the way. We must strike a balance between maintaining what works in the business while continuously rethinking it. Study the newest trends in the market. Can your organisation keep up with developments? Sometimes the competencies are lacking, and partnerships can therefore be an effective way of increasing agility. Innovation and new ideas often start with welcoming input from outside, so ask yourself: What potential partners could contribute to lifting the business up a notch?

3. Think long-term 

Transformation and change take time, and we have to start thinking ahead already today. There is a tendency among managers to focus primarily on the here and now, because making plans for the future can be challenging, but that has to stop now. Ask yourself this: What will my field look like in 20 years if it is to be 100 per cent sustainable? Have the courage and ambition to set out a vision for how your business will look one generation from now.

We might not be able to save the world at once, but as managers we have a unique opportunity to make a big difference by bringing sustainability into our individual organisations.

Kinga Szabo Christensen

  • Direct +45 3377 3905
  • Mobile +45 2949 4699
  • E-mail kisz@di.dk
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