Back 19.04.2023

Susformation – the way into a sustainable future

Kompensaatio vaatii pelisääntöjä.

Susformation is the systematic change of your organization to become truly sustainable. It comes from combining the words sustainability and transformation. At Gaia we believe that to secure a sustainable future for us all, every organization must eventually susform. For some it is a means for survival, but for most susformation presents new areas for business and growth.  

Nature disrupts our living and business environment. The impacts of the key sustainability disruptors biodiversity, climate change, and resource scarcity are highly complex but at the same time create unprecedented business opportunities for those willing to grasp and solve this complexity.

Susforming means transforming the core of your business. It means creating solutions to the challenges our planet and society face today and tomorrow. It, however, does not have to mean changing everything in your organization at once. For most organizations, susformation is comparable in many ways to a cultural shift, something ongoing and systematic, that can go on for years.

Sustainalizing happens not only in the organization, but also in the value chain

A susformation can involve new business design based on solving the issues our society faces or finding new and emerging ways to operate your current offering in more sustainable ways. The change often also extends to the supply chain, where significant sustainalizing can often happen with big impacts. In this case making sure your supply chain is as sustainable as possible extends beyond codes of conduct and procurement strategies to finding areas where changing the way you do things has the largest potential for sustainability impact.

Revising your approach to your value chain’s sustainability will require changes in how you interact with all parts of it – move from audits and sets of rules to co-operation and genuine transformation in co-operation with all parties involved. Within the next ten years many value chains or networks are likely to change their composition, making space for many new markets and opportunities for organizations willing to look for possibilities. By innovating, sustainalizing and making changes in your value chain, finding a new core for your organization can materialize.

As for most transformations, with susformation making sure your internal processes are aligned with the change is just as important. When it comes to sustainability it is imperative that with time everyone in the organization understands its value, not only to society, but also to your business, and that it naturally becomes embedded in all the processes of your organization.

Foresight and leadership at the core of susformation

Implementing a successful susformation requires foresight and leadership. Organizational value creation models are to be redefined and thus a fundamental and cutting-edge change in strategy, business models, and operations is needed. This means a susformation often starts by examining possible and alternative futures and choosing the impact your organization wants to make. Sustainability is such a vast field, trying to graze everything will lead to small or mediocre results.

For each organization there will be areas that must be covered in terms of compliance, but the ones that will bring strategic value for your organization are ones where you truly can make an impact, not only with a smaller footprint, but with a wider handprint. This requires the courage to choose areas, where you have potential to make an impact, but that are not likely to become industry standards. To help in this quest it can help to redefine or reimagine how your organization defines value creation and sustainable growth. We at Gaia see that sustainable growth can be realized if we simultaneously extend our view of value creation to include value to society and the environment.

In a successful susformation, changes do not only take place within one’s own organization, but on a systemic level, even creating a market shift. This is possible as many of the market opportunities emerging are not ones of classic and traditional substitute markets, but new markets altogether, thus small market disruptions are possible for most companies.

Despite uncertainty, the key is to get started

Susformation requires embracing the uncertainty of yet unknown markets and ways of working, but can also be largely beneficial, not only in ten years from now, but also in the shorter term. Not only are new waves of regulation increasing the need for organizations to become sustainable, but most customers now include sustainability in their decision-making criteria, making the value of a more sustainable business tangible in sales and brand value.

Investors are also increasingly paying attention to how sustainable organizations are. Originally this was undoubtedly to reduce the risk of their investments, but today there is more and more proof that sustainable companies grow in value quicker and more intensely than other organizations. This also sets the requirement to follow up on the progress of susforming in leadership and being able to show the results you achieve to your organization and your stakeholders.

Although the thought of transforming your organization for yet one more theme, the hardest part of susforming is surely making the decision to get started. Each organization will find their own pace and ambition to susforming, the most important thing is to start doing something.

Basic sustainability criteria is not enough, susformation hits the spot |
Sustainability communication as a susformation driver |
Driving sustainability – how to credibly market and communicate about it? |
Finland could be a leader of change in the green transition – are we taking advantage of the opportunity? |

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