Sustainability makes you future-fit

Sustainability makes you future-fit

The companies that fail to see that sustainability is the next big innovation leap might be out of business sooner rather than later, says Britt Nilsen, Head of Sustainability in Schibsted.

Sustainability will be a prerequisite for doing business in the future. It’s not something that you can choose to relate to or not. Those who think they have a choice in the matter probably lack understanding of what sustainability is, as well as how it represents new business opportunities. The most common misunderstanding is the presumption that sustainability is about climate change only, coupled with the belief that those types of challenges will not hit us for many years to come.

It’s important to understand that sustainability is also about human rights (all people should get the same opportunities, freedom of speech), labour rights (freedom of association, working conditions, health and safety) and anti-corruption (how do we do business in an ethically correct way). It is a lot to take on. You need to work methodically – and perhaps most importantly – sustainability needs to be part of your overall business strategy.

It starts with strategy

In Schibsted, it all starts there – with strategy. We strive to consider and manage our impact in all business decisions and, through our services, empower people to make economic and sustainable choices. One of our overarching goals is that we must make sure that growing our business and having a positive impact on society and the environment is equally important.

We have one strategy, and that strategy must be sustainable. Sustainability is not something that we do on the side whenever it suits us. It’s not about complying with laws and regulations and commitments or giving money to charity. Sustainability is an integrated part of our core business, and we need to treat it as a source of business opportunities. We must continue earning money to stay in business, but we need to do it in a sustainable way by maximising our positive impact on society and the environment.

It’s like putting on your sustainability glasses and looking through them in everything you do, in our day-to-day work and all our business decisions. But to be able to do that you need to do the work. You need to understand how the business and strategy connect to the four sustainability areas mentioned previously and how you can make the most impact, and you also need to check that out with your stakeholders.

15 identified areas

Through a so-called materiality analysis, Schibsted has decided to focus on 15 areas within sustainability. To identify them, we benchmarked ourselves against peers, explored risks and opportunities, evaluated possible impact on the environment and the society, and completed stakeholder dialogues. All the results were then discussed with the executive management team.

In Schibsted it is through our business that we can make the greatest impact. We are not an industrial company and our own greenhouse gas emissions are limited, so reducing them will have a limited effect. But through our marketplaces we facilitate second-hand trade and empower circular and sustainable consumption. This means that our users can cut greenhouse gas emissions through their own circular consumption.

Focus is on our own businesses

The effect in 2020 for Schibsted is that the saved emissions through our marketplaces are 55 times higher than our own emissions. That’s why we should focus most of our resources on our own business and finding new business opportunities, because this is how we make the most impact.

For the 15 sustainability focus areas in Schibsted, we have set long-term ambitions and short-term targets. These are the responsibility of the executive management team. They have included these ambitions and targets in their execution dashboards, which is followed up regularly in progress reviews. That’s the only way to make sure that sustainability is not done on the side but is actually integrated in what we do day-to-day.

Of course, it’s easy to say that this is the way it should be done. Working with sustainability is a lot about mindset and it takes time. Going from a world where you only deliver value to the shareholders to embracing an entirely new dogma in which you should deliver value to all stakeholders is not done overnight. But being a bystander is not an alternative either, so it’s time to just jump straight into sustainability to make sure that you are future-fit.

Britt Nilsen

Britt Nilsen
Head of Sustainability
Years in Schibsted: 23