Navigating Sustainability Challenges in 2024: A CEO’s Guide

As we step into 2024, CEOs are facing a big question: How do we make our businesses more sustainable?

Many CEOs have set bold sustainability goals, but the truth is, very few are confident about reaching them. This gap between what we want to achieve and what we’re actually achieving is a serious challenge. It’s clear that we need a clear roadmap to help CEOs on their sustainability journey.

The Gap Between Ambition and Reality

One major problem is that we’re not getting the whole company involved in our sustainability efforts. Often, we set sustainability targets without getting input from the people responsible for making those changes happen in the business. This lack of involvement leaves good sustainability ideas without support, slowing down progress.

Shockingly, and according to a recent Bain survey, less than a quarter of business leaders think sustainability is fully integrated into their company. That means over a third of them are falling short of what they expected in their sustainability efforts. To bridge this gap, we need to change our mindset.

Sustainability isn’t just something we have to do; it’s an opportunity to create value.

A Four-Step Guide to Success

Despite these challenges, there’s a clear path to success. Successful businesses consistently follow four key principles:

  1. Set clear goals

First, we need to turn our big sustainability ideas into clear, measurable goals that connect to our day-to-day business. This means setting targets even if we’re not sure how we’ll achieve them and learning as we go.

For example, Tesco, a UK retail giant, is committed to becoming a net-zero emissions company by 2035. They’ve set specific targets to reduce emissions in their operations, supply chain, and products. This shows how to turn big goals into practical, measurable actions.

  1. Think about your stakeholders

Sustainability shouldn’t just benefit the company; it should help everyone involved. We need to think about how our sustainability efforts can benefit different groups. There are rating agencies that track how much value companies create for different stakeholders, helping design strategies that benefit everyone.

Sometimes, we’ll have to make trade-offs between different stakeholders. In developing your sustainability strategy, you can help to share knowledge and weigh these trade-offs.

  1. Create dedicated teams

Some sustainability efforts need more than just part-time work. For these, we need teams that focus on finding and testing new solutions. The key is to assign the right team to the right job to get results.

The UK’s National Grid, for instance, has dedicated teams working on renewable energy and reducing carbon emissions. These teams play a big role in driving innovation and moving towards cleaner energy.

  1. Scale Up Solutions

Once we have great sustainability ideas, we need to make them work on a larger scale. We should have ways to get feedback, clear plans, and ways to fix problems quickly. This helps us put sustainability into our everyday business.

Centrica, a UK energy company, is a good example of this. They’re working on projects to make energy use more efficient and use more renewable energy. They’re making sustainability a normal part of their business.

Making Sustainability Part of Business

By following these principles, companies can make sustainability a core part of their business, rather than just something they do on the side. Business leaders need to see sustainability as a way to create value, not just as a challenge.

Sainsbury’s, a big UK supermarket, shows us how to do this. They’re aiming to have no carbon emissions from their operations by 2040. They’re also tying sustainability goals to how their top executives get paid, making sure sustainability stays important.

Paving the Way to a Sustainable 2024

As we start the journey into sustainability in 2024, CEOs should ask:

  • Are our middle managers responsible for sustainability goals?
  • Have we put together teams to work on new sustainability ideas?
  • Do our employees have good ideas for sustainability that can create value?
  • How can we make change happen more quickly?

By changing how we think, setting clear goals, making sure everyone benefits, creating teams for innovation, and scaling up our solutions, we can make sustainability a part of our business. This roadmap guides CEOs through the challenges of 2024 and beyond.

If you need support developing your roadmap – Get in touch at


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