thl sustainability journey:
How much sustainability is enough?
Sustainability programs are often based on incremental improvements with little vision about how the business will need to look and perform as a truly sustainable business. thl recognised the strategic power of the Future-Fit Business Benchmark to solve that challenge, with progress indicators painting a clearer pathway to zero social and environmental harm.
Start with adding sustainable value
Way back in 2014, thl recognised the need to bring its various sustainability initiatives together into a coherent strategy in a way that could add future value to the business and for its shareholders. thl enrolled on the Adding Sustainable Value programme developed and facilitated by Proxima in partnership with Otago Polytechnic. The programme enabled thl’s then sustainability champion, Saskia Verraes, to engage a number of people from across the business in developing a strategy that made commercial sense and enjoyed strong internal support. (Disclosure: Saskia loved the process so much she now works for Proxima).
As thl progressed on its journey, the company was looking for a more holistic set of progress indicators. In 2018, Proxima introduced thl to the Future-Fit Business Benchmark. thl immediately recognised the Benchmark’s strategic potential to help it understand and credibly measure the systemic impacts of its business operations, move towards a clear and scientifically defined sustainability end goal and operationalise its ambition to become a true sustainability business leader.
Value of the Future-Fit Business Benchmark
The Benchmark is an all-encompassing set of 23 Break-Even Goals based on over 25-years of peer-reviewed science to incorporate Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics, the Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Planetary Boundaries and The Natural Step’s system conditions for sustainability. The 23 goals measure the true progress of a business towards creating a society that is socially just, environmentally restorative and economically inclusive. In effect, it scores towards a break-even point where all unsustainable impacts are eliminated.
Grant Webster, CEO of thl summed it up neatly:
“We believe business can and must make a difference. And that we can be a sustainable business and achieve strong returns – it’s a genuine “and, both” situation.
Like many businesses, we’ve had a sustainability strategy for some years. But until we found Future-Fit we didn’t know exactly what was right or how much was enough to protect people, the planet – and our business. Now we’ve got a clear direction to head in, and it’s based on science and systems thinking. The response from our Board, team, shareholders and customers has been really positive.
We also like the tools – they’re well thought-out and logical.”
The open-source Future-Fit materials enabled thl to carry out an initial Health Check against the 23 Break-Even Future-Fit Goals to give a snapshot of its baseline sustainability progress. The Health Check was published in thl’s 2019 Annual Report, making it the first listed company, globally, to report on Future-Fit.
In 2019, thl began its Future-Fit assessment that posed an exciting challenge given thl’s sheer size and complexity. Even before the merger with Apllow in 2023, the global company comprised several different business units with operations spanning New Zealand, Australia, USA and Europe. Over 40 operational sites had to be assessed against each of the 23 Break-Even Goals.
In order to complete the assessment, thl established an internal Future-Fit team consisting of analysts and a communications expert. Proxima established a truly collaborative partnership with thl, seconding two Proximanauts into the thl Future-Fit team twice weekly to assist with data collection and analysis; as well as the practical interpretation of the Break-Even Goals.
The collaborative partnership was a perfect example of the mutual benefits of businesses working towards a common goal. thl was able to pose questions and receive timely technical advice on the application of the Break-Even Goals, whilst building internal knowledge and capability; whilst the Proxima team were able to understand the practical realities of implementing the Benchmark in a large corporate setting.
An ambitious journey with transparently measured progress
Now with 5-years of health-check data, thl can see the progress the company has made. And, because the way the Benchmark's 23 Break-Even Goals are designed, the company can be confident the Health Check dashboard covers all relevant issues with a robust, globally recognised metric pointing the way not just to better, but to a break-even point of enough.
For full details of thl's sustainability progress, have a look at the company's 2023 Integrated Annual Report.
Get in touch to find out more about how the Future-Fit Business Benchmark can help you lead the way.