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Embracing sustainability in the boardroom

Sustainability

The concept of sustainability, which encompasses environmental, social and governance (ESG) concerns is not new. Indeed one of the most commonly referenced definitions, ‘meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ was set out over 30 years ago by the Brundtland Commission.

What is relatively new however, is the worldwide awakening that action needs to be taken quickly to address the huge economic, social and environmental challenges facing our planet to ensure a sustainable future. This action is the responsibility of everyone - governments, businesses, investors and each and every individual. In this context sustainability is now recognised as a critical business issue.

Boards have a key responsibility in driving action. However, ensuring the topic is covered appropriately by boards is difficult as they face a number of challenges: the topic covers a vast array of complex matters; good practice is still developing; there is ‘no one size fits all’ framework; and the need to balance focus on long-value creation versus achieving short-term results. The stakes are high not only for our planet – sustainability is central to corporate competitiveness and will impact both a company’s ability to operate and its reputation. Board members need to act now and lead meaningful sustainability improvements in the organisations they govern. Our six steps set out below can help boards tackle these challenges and embrace sustainability in the boardroom.

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