Inside Caterpillar’s culture of transformation

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

The following is an edited excerpt of “Headwinds of Opportunity: A Compass for Sustainable Innovation” by Tim Lindsey (Routledge, Taylor & Francis, 2017). 

As an innovative business strategy, sustainability tends to present challenges for many organizations with respect to its compatibility and complexity characteristics. Given that many organizations are driven predominantly by short-term financial performance, changing their priorities to give equal emphasis to environmental and social aspects can be problematic. While they may recognize the importance of these aspects, giving them equal emphasis to short-term financial performance is not compatible with the culture of most organizations. Fortunately, many organizations already assign paramount importance to some nonfinancial aspects that can be leveraged to make the case for elevating the status of sustainability performance.

Even leaders of the most conservative organizations regularly make decisions for the good of the enterprise that do not demonstrate strong short-term financial benefits. They recognize that certain decisions are in the organization’s best interest in the long term even if it is not possible to justify them through the calculation of a short-term return on investment (ROI). Safety and quality are good examples of performance aspects that require long-term focus and commitment. Even though they are difficult to connect with short-term financial performance, most organizations recognize their importance for achieving enduring success. No responsible leader would disregard their organization’s safety or quality performance. The same rationale can be used with respect to other dimensions of sustainability.

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