Can sustainability lead to a competitive advantage?

Can sustainability lead to a competitive advantage?

Episode #60 – Ioannis Ioannou, Fiona Morgan and Sir Russell Coutts discuss whether sustainability leadership can create differentiation for organisations

Michael E. Porter is one of the most renowned academic thinkers in the field of business strategy. If you’ve ever studied business (or read publications like Harvard Business Review), you’ve doubtless come across his thinking and work.

Competitive advantage, says Porter, can be derived from two main sources: doing things at lower cost or differentiation.

Sustainability has been touted as a form of differentiation – but if every organisation needs to get their environmental house in order to align with emerging policy and public opinion, how can organisations differentiate on these grounds?

In his own Harvard Business Review article from 2019, one of this week’s guests, Ioannis Ioannou, puts forward the argument that while sustainability can be competitive advantage for some, this will only extend to the organisations going beyond risk management and embedding sustainability in their organisational strategy, leading to new innovation in products and services that provide solutions for consumers and the planet.

SailGP is one of the handful of sports properties to have sustainability as a key pillar of its strategy and operations. Its mantra, ‘powered by nature’, reflects this. And even though its ambitious net zero carbon strategy (2025) and focus on sustainable development in host cities has won the attention of fans and partners like Tesla, its chief executive Sir Russell Coutts insists that this is not to carve out a competitive advantage – but to be in-step with other leading organisations.

In this podcast, Coutts and Fiona Morgan, SailGP’s director of purpose and impact, follow up on Ioannou’s observations by showcasing their approach to social and environmental leadership, which includes establishing an innovative approach to athlete engagement and competition in the shape of the Impact League.

Listen to the full episode here:


Listen to this episode to discover:

– How organisations can adopt a value- and solutions-based approach to sustainability

– Why SailGP developed the Impact League alongside its core competition

– Whether sustainability leadership can truly create differentiation – or if it can be an aspiration for all

To find out about future episodes of the podcast, and to keep on top of the latest thinking when it comes to sustainable leadership, innovation and strategy for the sports industry, subscribe via iTunes, Spotify and Stitcher.

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