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Simplifying Complexity: The 8 Sustainability Challenges for Canadian Business in 2014

This report points to critical sustainability issues, providing signposts to best practices and knowledge, to enable long-term success of Canadian business.

How can businesses act for tomorrow today?

Companies are operating in a global system that is increasingly complex. They can address this complexity in their operating environment by seeking to reduce it and by becoming more resilient.

“Doing the same things incrementally better over time is not a long-term strategy for sustainability leadership,” says Valerie Chort, Partner & National Leader, Sustainability & Climate Change Deloitte. “It is no longer sufficient for companies to simply do things better. They must also do things differently.”

Managing such change is a constant theme throughout NBS’s report, “Simplifying Complexity.” Each year, the Network for Business Sustainability convenes our Leadership Council to discuss and debate the most critical issues limiting sustainable development: in organizations, value chains, the marketplace, government, and society.

The Leadership Council represents leading Canadian industry, government, and civil society organizations. In September 2013, the Council discussed and prioritized eight questions for NBS research over the coming year.

Top 8 Sustainability Challenges in 2014

  1. How can businesses act for tomorrow today? See resulting Systematic Review and Executive Report.

  2. How can companies design resilient sustainability programs that can survive leadership changes, economic downturns, political shifts and other setbacks?

  3. How can companies most effectively engage with activist groups and NGOs on controversial issues?

  4. How can companies combat consumer apathy to build active support for sustainability initiatives?

  5. How can firms create a pragmatic connection between sustainability and innovation?

  6. How can firms improve overall performance by embedding sustainability throughout their value chains?

  7. What are the appropriate metrics for sustainable development in a natural resource, export-based and growing economy such as Canada’s?

  8. What are the best ways for businesses to incorporate Aboriginal perspectives on sustainability, and include Aboriginal communities in discussion of projects that affect their interests?

Addressing Future Business Needs

Simplifying Complexity” highlights these critical sustainability issues facing business. It provides signposts to best practices and knowledge. This identification can support further introspection, dialogue, and action on these issues, enabling long-term success of Canadian business.

Links to online NBS knowledge resources throughout the report support readers who wish to dig deeper into these topics. Academic researchers can use this report to identify areas where industry most needs their help, and where they might have the most impact on practice.

Toward ‘Future Thinking’

In response to this report, NBS systematically reviewed research on the top challenge:

#1: How can businesses act for tomorrow today? 

Sustainability’s long-term orientation is challenging to embrace within companies where short-term deadlines, returns, and customer needs take high priority.

Access the Systematic Review, “Bringing Long-Term Thinking into Business,” and the accompanying Executive Report, “Long-Term Thinking in a Short-Term World: A Guide for Executives.”


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