The holy trinity of sustainability: science, strategy and storytelling

The role of a sustainability consultant has changed considerably since Edge was born, nearly 13 years ago. Ideas that were once radical – from net zero emissions to the circular economy – are becoming commonplace as environmental awareness and innovation continue to progress. At Edge, we’ve never been content with the status quo. We’re always looking to the future and what that might bring. So, what comes next? We think it’s all about accelerating the rate of transformation. We have the tools, we know what’s possible – we just need to do more of it, and do it faster. But to achieve that, we need to combine the three key ingredients that, until recently, have often existed in isolation: science, strategy and storytelling.

The changing landscape

The rigour around our industry is gaining momentum and doesn’t show signs of slowing. Rewind 10 years and it was easy to engage in some green spin. Catchy slogans and unsubstantiated claims were usually enough to ride the wave and give the necessary impression of assuming corporate responsibility. Fast forward to today, and that approach no longer cuts the mustard. Companies face growing demands from investors for transparency and ambition, and consumers increasingly expect brands to have a genuine commitment to addressing global social and environmental issues. The pressure is also mounting from the bottom upwards as new employees want to understand and align with company values: there is a new generation of talent who are not just in it for the salary. Sustainability has earned a place at the top table of priorities, but to stay there it needs intelligent and integrated thinking.

What comes next?

Sustainability consultants like us are often drafted in to help clients meet the demands now upon them. But, looking forward, to do this most effectively our role has to change too. Increasingly, we need to wear a range of hats to give clients the help they need as the solution is rarely one dimensional. Technical number crunchers should always be the bedrock of sustainability but can be so focussed on the detail that they don’t always see the bigger picture. The reverse can be equally problematic. Strategic experts are full of big ideas and creative vision, but they can often lack the evidence-base to underpin their thinking. Meanwhile, communications agencies are skilled at building a story to engage audiences, but the narrative can quickly come undone if the evermore demanding and sophisticated stakeholders get a whiff of greenwashing. As the industry evolves, so must our business model. It has become increasingly difficult for consultants to meet clients’ needs – and catalyse change – if these crucial skillsets can’t be brought together under one roof.

How are we any different at Edge?

Photo credit: Tasha Wakefield from Spindrift Collections

Originally founded as, amongst other things, a life cycle assessment consultancy, Edge was born and bred on global science and data. It didn’t take long to realise that the best analysis in the world means absolutely nothing unless it informs a holistic approach. It is this knowledge which led us to build a strategy team that now works hand-in-hand with our technical experts to deliver transformational projects for some of Australia’s most ambitious organisations. The final piece of the puzzle has been the formation of our Sustainability Leadership and Communications business unit. This exists to help convert our strategies and analysis into stories that engage and inspire boardrooms, financiers, workers and customers alike. By harnessing these skills across the breadth of our business, we can now offer a truly integrated proposition that keeps pace with the acceleration of the industry – and enables us to effectively position our clients for the future.

Our recipe for success: science, strategy, storytelling

Heading into 2021, the “Triple S” is something you’ll be hearing a lot about from Edge as we weave them into everything we do. We believe that by bringing these three critical elements together, we’re uniquely placed to help our clients tackle some of the world’s most fundamental challenges, and to ‘do well by doing good’. Our aim for this year is to make sure we use this integrated approach to help drive a rapid acceleration in the sustainability movement. We’re excited about the opportunities ahead and the knowledge we can share, and we’re keen to meet like-minded clients and partners to join us on this journey.

If you want to find out more about how we can accelerate your sustainability journey with science, strategy and storytelling, contact us.

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