“If we can go out and try to drive this kind of change, I think it’s possible for anyone.” Pursuing sustainability, much like digital transformation, can have its short-term risks, but there is value in being a purpose driven company for those who seek it out.

On episode 158 of DisrupTV our hosts Vala Afshar and R “Ray” Wang caught up with Tim O'Keeffe, Chief Executive Officer at Symmons Industries; and Heather Clancy, Editorial Director at GreenBiz Group, to discuss the pairing of business objectives and goals for sustainability. Here are the top 5 takeaways from the episode:

Improving Efficiency Goes Hand in Hand with Improving Sustainability:

Tim O’Keefe is pushing Symmons Industries into the future with an innovative and efficient water management solution, demonstrating that improved products can also be greener. Symmons’ breakthrough business model centers around the use of sensors and software to provide advanced insights into a building’s water management system. With their new solution they are targeting the hospitality sector and offering a vastly improved guest experience. The Symmons platform can predict problems with a building’s water system before they occur, ensuring that water at the right temperature is delivered to guests at the right time. Increased efficiency also reduces the massive amounts of water and energy wasted while guests wait for their water to get hot. Consequently, hotels save on their energy bills and can declare sustainability as an element of their brands. In the future, automation may even allow Symmons to offer a water-as-a-service business model.

Old Businesses Can be Taught New Tricks:

Only a few years ago, Symmons Industries was a traditional plumbing manufacturer. To push for innovation within the organization, Tim says it took perseverance and curiosity. When faced with hesitant stakeholders and the breakneck pace of technological change, Tim advocates “Firing bullets instead of cannon balls”. He says that Innovation is an iterative process of taking small shots, learning from the feedback, and pushing forward. Furthermore, Tim described Symmons as a purpose driven company. He was personally motivated to reimagine how water is managed and spread this vision across the entire company, inspiring a culture of change and innovation. It takes bold and visionary leadership to explore new possibilities and move the needle. Tim’s advice for others: “be comfortable being uncomfortable”.

C-suite Champions are Required to Shift Organizational Culture:

Pursuing sustainability not only requires a change in processes, but it also requires a culture shift that everyone in the organization must be bought into. Heather Clancy says that often the actions required for sustainability are basic; however, organizations need a C-suite champion to operationalize a culture of sustainability and make real change happen.

Long Term Thinking Delivers Lasting Rewards:

Smart, long term investments are necessary to survive in our rapidly changing world. To illustrate this fact, Heather detailed the redevelopment of Kearny point, a historic shipyard. The site’s developer decided to completely reimagine the location after Superstorm Sandy. With support from the public sector, they have worked to build green infrastructure, repurpose older facilities to house sustainable businesses, and encourage new jobs to move onto the site. The underlying goal of the project is to rebuild the area as a model for sustainable economic development. Although oftentimes passed up on, the opportunity to think in the long-term can help differentiate a product and extract sustained rewards. You can read up on Kearny point here: https://www.greenbiz.com/article/new-jersey-developer-charts-course-urba....

Sustainable Development Goals Should be Tied to Business Goals:

As companies reevaluate their objectives for the next 5 to 10 years, sustainable business goals could make a global impact. When organizations discuss sustainability, it should be established as a core value - not just a marketing gimmick. According to Heather, companies used to cherry pick a few peripheral initiatives that they could carry out for sustainability. In the future, when sustainability efforts have proven value, more companies may incorporate sustainability into their core business objectives.

Sustainable development, as with digital transformation, doesn’t happen overnight. These are challenging yet rewarding processes that will become more intertwined over time. Eventually, delivering excellent experiences must include delivering a sustainable future.

This is just a small glimpse at the great insight shared during the show. Please check out the full discussions in the video replay here or on the podcast.

DisrupTV Episode 158, Featuring Tim O'Keeffe and Heather Clancy from Constellation Research on Vimeo.

DisrupTV is a weekly Web series with hosts R “Ray” Wang and Vala Afshar. The show airs live at 11:00 a.m. PT/ 2:00 p.m. ET every Friday.