Leverage business process management to implement your sustainability strategy

Jessica Dingle Business Process Consultant, Solita

Published 08 Dec 2022

Reading time 5 min

As organisations we live by working towards our targets and KPIs – targets for revenue, customer experience, quality, retention, and employee engagement, to name only a few. For a couple of years now, a new group of targets has come under the spotlight – sustainability targets. These targets often come with some sort of promise of a reduced carbon footprint. But they also contain promises of increased gender diversity and a positive community impact. With a growing climate crisis and increased turmoil in many parts of the world, we cannot afford to miss the sustainability targets we set.

We cannot afford to miss the sustainability targets we set

Business process management (BPM) is a proven management discipline and a foundation for continuous improvement and transformational change. With methods for strategy, design, implementation and control of business processes, it can guide a company to enable change and support various business transformation initiatives. BPM is the cornerstone of running business effectively for growth and a better customer experience. BPM takes a holistic end-to-end view of business processes and connections to strategy, capabilities, organisation, data, risks and technology.

Historically BPM has focused more on increasing efficiency and reducing costs. Nowadays, it is utilised to help companies improve strategy execution to increase customer value and enable growth. As it has proved able to tackle many different transformations, BPM is perfectly suited for supporting your organisation’s transformation to sustainability.

BPM is perfectly suited for supporting your organisation’s transformation to sustainability

So how do we make sure that the sustainability promises and targets we set don’t get stuck on a PowerPoint in the boardroom? How do we support strategy execution and convert targets into everyday work? I’m going to list four ways in which BPM is great for supporting the sustainability transformation.

1 – Connect sustainability strategy with business strategy and day-to-day operations

Several companies have switched from having a separate sustainability strategy to combining their sustainability strategy with their business strategy. This is a good first step if you are serious about increasing sustainability in your organisation (and you should be). When the goals are in place, the transformation journey should begin. This is achieved by translating those high-level targets into actions in your day-to-day operations. This is the first aspect in which working with business process management can support you. BPM applies a structured approach to business process design and analysis. With BPM, you can design the end-to-end business processes from the top strategic level down to the operational level, complete with the relationships, roles, departments and key metrics that tie the organisation together. This in turn can help you identify improvement areas.

“Do we have processes with high regulatory standards in which we need to engage with other stakeholders to ensure compliance? Do we have an opportunity to reuse waste heat in our production and decrease energy consumption?”

2 – Create transparency and accountability in your sustainability efforts

A well thought-out and maintained business process design is a good foundation for establishing transparency and enhancing accountability in your sustainability efforts. Clearly defined roles, operations and metrics support accountability, both within your organisation and externally for your customers.

“What activities have we implemented to ensure compliance in our critical business processes? How much waste heat are we reusing?”

External reporting will also be a requirement for many companies going forward. The EU has extended the previously named Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) to what is called the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), with the first changes effective from 1 January 2024. The CSRD will apply to more companies than the NFRD and will also bring more detailed reporting requirements, auditing by a third party and digitised reporting. If your business processes are already transparent, this will vastly simplify the work you need to do to meet these requirements. And it will be even better if it is automated, and you can generate reports based on the information in your end-to-end process design.

3 – Combine continuous improvement with business transformation

As I mentioned at the start, BPM supports continuous improvement and business transformations. With process mining, it is possible to automatically discover, measure and improve business processes with data-driven insights based on how the processes are actually executed – instead of how you think they are executed. Process mining is a critical part of BPM to continuously measure your key business processes, identify improvement potential and implement changes in the organisation.

“Are we working according to the process we’ve set, or is there a risk of non-compliance?”

However, sustainability transformation also requires innovation, the disruption of business models, drastic legislation and enormous investment. But these are only the beginning of the journey – a journey that is built on business processes and your day-to-day work. With the help of business process analysis, you can redesign your future business operations while following the development of your current operations. You can plan for business transformation and keep track of where you are on your transformation journey.

If your target processes are part of your process design, you can also use this to increase transparency in communication with your organisation and employees.

“What do we think our transformation journey will look like? How do we aim to fulfil our strategic objectives?” This will help eliminate the feeling that the sustainability strategy is “just for show” or “a PowerPoint product”.

This will eliminate the feeling that the sustainability strategy is “just for show” or “a Powerpoint product”

4 – Business process management isn’t just for sustainable value creation

The best thing about business process management is that it isn’t just about sustainability. If you are already working with BPM, make sure you start utilising it for your sustainability value creation as well. If you have yet to start working with BPM and lack a good overview of your end-to-end processes, get started! When you do, you’ll discover that this can support your organisation in many other ways as well, such as improving business performance, improving business through technology and ensuring business compliance.

We advise you to implement the sustainability strategy in your business operations and end-to-end business processes – make sure you meet the targets you’ve set!

Are you interested in how your organisation can gain an advantage by leveraging data-driven process excellence for your sustainability strategy? We will be happy to discuss this further to implement a value-driven, sustainable business. Solita has many years’ experience in areas such as strategy, business design, process excellence, sustainability value creation and data-driven transformation. We would be happy to support you!

Jessica worked as business excellence project lead and process owner at Siemens before she joined Solita. Jessica is currently working as a consultant in process excellence within our Design & Strategy unit and has a special interest in sustainability and how organisations are adapting to new sustainability strategies.