First move advantage of sustainability programmes

Business sustainable programmes develop the socio economic status of citizens at the same time preserving the environment while propelling them to be profitable.

The evaluation of the effectiveness of the programmes is very necessary to achieve a meaningful impact to society. Apart from the crucial decision on priority of high and positive societal impact, the timing of the projects is very important. Companies can therefore improve their reputation by investing in carefully assessed and well-timed sustainability programmes.

The first move advantage cannot be over emphasised and followers are forced to invest heavily to match-up and compete.
Likewise, organisations that take an early lead to study and act on tough social and environmental issues are assumed pioneers and are therefore strategically positioned in the market place. Issues of climate change are topical worldwide and the organisations in the manufacturing sector that tackles it will be assured of the market sympathy. Socio economic issues are extending to labour related matters where the use of child labour and discrimination are topical and a consideration for procurement decision making.

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First movers assume the role of international companies such as BP that supported climate change initiatives and other multi-national companies that took a stand against poor working conditions of employees. First movers have a risk however, pioneers need to be sure of the consequences of their actions. A good intention can have negative results. Despite the risk, they stand out from the crowd for their ethical courage and wisdom thereby reaping reputational rewards only associated with first movers.

The catch-up game for the organisations that do not step up early is the risk of slow movers and followers. No sane executive would want to swim against the current of socio-economic and environmental management issues. It is however, to some a more comfortable position to be a follower than to be a spectator in sustainability matters. It then becomes more comfortable to be a follower than to be on the wrong side of social and environmental matters because it exposes the company to the wrath of the customers, investors and employees.

The ICT sector in the country has shown some appreciation of green issues. The introduction of solar lanterns has improved significantly the lives of both the urban and rural sector. The sector has shown appreciation of the reputation derived from sustainable performance when NetOne and Econet embarked on the solar lights projects. This brings the idea that it is a certainty that reputational concerns are a major reason why particular industries play up their sustainability performance.
Apart from lighting, the innovation assures the mobile operators business when cellphones are always available on the network when batteries are always charged.

Businesses in competitive markets are sensitive to sustainability performance and it is expected that in the short-term, public sustainability reports such as those published internationally by organisations in petrochemicals, mining and automobiles shall be available. Such industries have many players or have oligopoly markets that thrive on the perception portrayed to customers.
The success is determined by reinforcing the image of caring, safe and environmentally sensitive business. Others embark on these projects to protect an already existing strong brand. In some cases, businesses find themselves in a wrong industry and would desire to burnish their image to correct the environmental and social concerns of society.

Reactive companies would only adopt sustainable strategies to counter bad press reports. Proactive companies view sustainability as a way to enhance their industry’s reputation with government agencies and dissuade them from further regulation. A strong reputation is of real business value and a good procurement strategies can achieve it.

●Nyasha Chizu is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply writing in his personal capacity. Feedback: nya.chizu@gmail.com; Skype: nyasha.chizu

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