Outside in or inside out?

At the end of the day isn’t every transformation within a company’s sustainability performance caused by an external impulse i.e. outside in perspective? I figured that dividing sustainability transformations into three perspectives gives a plain description of the causal process. Change agents in the company, whether they are managers, groups or employees, trigger the change always because of external stimulus.

Surely, if you take the roughest examples from the history of ecological catastrophes and scandals, it is very obvious that certain companies needed to change their behavior in order to avoid future scandals. As mentioned earlier in my blog, it takes years to build up a strong brand but it takes minutes to destroy one. Blatant violations are no doubt outside in ways to improve sustainability.

I would also argue that inside and inside out perspectives are fundamentally outside in. Companies react to markets, they study markets and adapt to market conditions. There is no supply without demand. At some cases companies can create demand, but that demand emerges from the needs and wants of the people. Five years ago I didn’t have a need for iPad but I certainly had a need for quick and mobile information availability and access. I just didn’t know that mobile device technology would evolve that far. With this I mean that individuals in the company who start the sustainability transformation process are not the origin of the sustainability idea in the first place. The sustainability enlightenment doesn’t happen by itself. All CEOs’, managers and other individuals have absorbed this information of enlightenment from an external source. For instance, Ray Anderson experienced questions concerning the environment outside the company. Mika Anttonen, the owner of St1, changed his view on sustainability when he got kids. All change in individual’s behavior is caused by external events, thus all sustainability transformations are initially in outside in perspective. I think it is not critical to identify the direction of sustainability transformations. Instead, it is more important to understand how businesses can improve their reactive and proactive performance.


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