“Achieving sustainability in companies demands a profound shift in mindset” – Mia Negru, 2030 Builders

A champion of sustainable growth based in Denmark, Mia Negru is the co-founder of 2030 Builders, a pioneering digital tool aiding businesses in building sustainable strategies. Leveraging expertise in the Sustainable Development Goals, innovation, and green growth, she empowers individuals and organizations to flourish while minimizing environmental impact. With an education at Singularity University, she helps companies transform sustainability challenges into competitive advantages. A multi-faceted individual, Mia serves as a speaker, mentor, facilitator, and passionate advocate for ambitious goals. In a recent interview Mia shared with us her insights on corporate sustainability engagement.

It is often mentioned that a paradigm shift (a transformation in mindset and behavior) is necessary for the successful promotion of sustainability in companies. What mindset and behavior should be targeted?

Achieving sustainability in companies demands a profound shift in mindset towards long-term thinking and a comprehensive perspective. This entails embracing a holistic view that acknowledges the interconnection of environmental, social, and economic factors. The behavioral transformation required involves cultivating proactive engagement, fostering a culture of innovation, and championing transparency in business practices. Employees should be encouraged to view their roles as contributors to a broader societal and environmental impact, rather than focusing solely on immediate business objectives.

Companies have various practices to achieve sustainability, but what do you believe are the main reasons for their failure or lack of success?

Numerous sustainability initiatives fail due to common pitfalls. Unclear goals and strategies, inadequate integration into core business functions, and a myopic short-term focus and pressure for immediate financial returns. To overcome these challenges, companies must adopt a more comprehensive and integrated approach. Sustainability efforts should be seamlessly knit into the fabric of the organization, aligning with long-term objectives and demonstrating a commitment to responsible business practices.

Do you have any tips for motivating top management to initiate the framework’s step 1 to engage employees? 

Motivating top management to lead sustainability initiatives requires a strategic approach. Aligning sustainability goals with core business objectives is essential, emphasizing that environmental and social responsibility can enhance the company’s financial performance and competitive standing. Success stories from within the industry should be showcased to illustrate the tangible benefits of sustainable practices.

Additionally, highlighting the positive impact on brand reputation, customer loyalty, and regulatory compliance can reinforce commitment from top-tier executives. In addition, the competitive advantage can only be kept by retaining and attracting top talent, and sustainability as a purposeful mission has become one of the main 3 factors that can do this besides work flexibility and benefits.

Recognizing the need for input settings in Steps 1-3, what kind of learning settings (contents, format, object, method etc.) do you find most appropriate for each step?

The path to sustainability involves progressing through awareness, gaining employee acknowledgement, and advancing expertise through upskilling. In the initial stages (Steps 1-3), tailor learning settings for sustainability, integrating gamification and role plays to infuse enjoyment and engage employees. Foster awareness through channels like internal communication, town halls, and CEO statements. Secure commitment by aligning incentives and missions with company goals.

In the “Expertise & Upskill” phase, provide focused knowledge extension across functions, employing gamification and role plays to assure a successful delivery on sustainability goals. Delve deeply into topics relevant to each role using a system thinking approach in collaborative training sessions. Encourage practical actions, decision-making practices, and explore trade-offs within the sustainability context. Foster commitment through rewards and recognition programs, aligning individuals with the company’s sustainability mission.

“Collaborative workshops play a pivotal role in addressing sustainability challenges, providing a platform for participants to collectively explore and understand the nuances of the climate crisis.”

Mia Negru, 2030 Builders
Regarding collaborative workshops where participants discuss and think about the climate crisis, do you find them effective in addressing sustainability challenges?

Collaborative workshops play a pivotal role in addressing sustainability challenges, providing a platform for participants to collectively explore and understand the nuances of the climate crisis. The diverse perspectives that emerge during these workshops contribute to a richer understanding of the challenges at hand and foster a sense of shared responsibility.

How do you assess the effectiveness of role-playing or simulation methods?

When assessing the effectiveness of role-playing or simulation methods, participant engagement is a critical metric. The real-world application of skills learned through simulations serves as a tangible measure of their effectiveness. These methods not only enhance practical skill development but also contribute to a more immersive and impactful learning experience, building self mastery and confidence for the managers and roles expected to significantly impact the sustainability implementation inside the organization and with external stakeholders.

For Step 5 (Advocacy & Ownership), what rewarding strategies do you consider effective, and can you share any best practices?

In Step 5 (Advocacy & Ownership), effective rewarding strategies involve recognizing and reinforcing the desired behavior. Empower influencers by providing mandates and channels to amplify sustainability initiatives. Use our platform to share concrete sustainability projects, ensuring they have the necessary capabilities and comfort with the topics. Enhance visibility through internal and external channels, and support advocates with helpful materials. Most importantly, reward the behavior, acknowledging and incentivizing their efforts in championing sustainability within and beyond the organization.

What advice do you have for sustainability professionals working in Japanese companies?

Recognizing and valuing the local culture is essential, forming the context for the development of sustainability initiatives. Vital to this is continuous training and support for employees, ensuring they possess the expertise to actively contribute to sustainability objectives. Deep engagement is crucial, prompting actions and instilling a sense of ownership and responsibility. Establishing robust relationships with critical stakeholders, both internal and external, is fundamental for achieving success in this endeavor.

We have high regards and expectations from the Japanese business environment as we are used to looking at the high performance heritage and the fast pace of innovation that it set up as an example for the European business community. So we have high expectations when it comes to leading the green transformation, the empowerment of every individual, as an employee or citizen to drive sustainable development.

Thank you Mia for your insights. A last word for our readers?

The journey towards sustainability in companies necessitates a multifaceted approach encompassing mindset shifts, practical learning, and effective communication. By embracing these elements, organizations can lay the foundation for a transformative change in their corporate culture, aligning their values with responsible and sustainable business practices.

Interview conducted by Sakura Hamaoka, edited by Mahi Patki and Stéfan Le Dû for Ichigo Bloom.

Ichigo Bloom offers climate and biodiversity collaborative workshops such as the Climate Fresk and the Biodiversity Collage, to raise awareness and ignite change within organizations.