In a number of my conversations with retailers, a consistent theme emerged around the most important skills for effective sustainability professionals: leadership skills. There is a general recognition that sustainability activities have significant benefits to their business, from increased employee retention to energy saving and other cost mitigating practices. Sustainability professionals have internalized the value of their activities and, more and more, have illustrated that value to their organizations – numerous surveys over the last year demonstrate that sustainability is being more heavily resourced than ever before. But sustainability teams still face very real roadblocks to successful implementation of their cost reducing, revenue generating, innovation inspiring, employee engaging programs.
This resistance comes in many forms: (mis)perceptions of “sustainability,” time constraints, individual/team/department/company priority mismatches, misalignment with corporate strategies, and more. At The Retail Industry Leaders Association’s Retail Sustainability Initiative (RSI), we recognize the barriers retailers face and want to support retailers in every way possible. Beginning this year, you will see RSI integrating systems thinking, leadership, and change management skill-building activities and tools into our materials, our programs, our conversations, and culminating in our 2011 conference.
We will continue to provide our members with a forum to share the energy, waste, product, compliance, and communications functional expertise retailers need to stay on top of the evolving field, but will now be sure to incorporate those “soft” but extremely valuable skills that can help retailers better engage their senior executives, network and empower their interdepartmental peers, break through the middle management “layer of clay,” partner with outside organizations, communicate their business case, and more.
We look forward to working with our retail members on all of their sustainability goals.