Communicating sustainability for enhanced business opportunities: Use of centrally-driven initiatives to integrate sustainability in product communication in decentralized multinational companies Case study of Trelleborg AB
Abstract: The particularities surrounding the way decentralized multinational companies are structured and governed can determine the success or failure of integrating sustainability aspects into their units’ approach of doing business. The choice of pursuing a decentralized avenue over a headquarter-driven one in managing sustainability can have a significant influence over the coherence of Group1-wide strategies and approaches to their implementation, but also over the level of ambition targeted at local level. This research aims at describing the early results regarding attitudes, drivers and barriers surrounding a recently launched headquarter-driven initiative, aimed at encouraging the incorporation of sustainability arguments in the communication and development of products and solutions in a decentralized multinational company. Through a case study research of Trelleborg AB, the study is expected to increase the understanding of the challenges faced at Group headquarters level on one hand and at unit level on the other hand when it comes to advancing and communicating sustainability, particularly through products and solutions. A second objective of the research has been to contribute to revealing opportunities that could help overcome these challenges and strengthen the initiative. Trelleborg’s business-to-business global presence can offer a comprehensive account of the different experiences, challenges, attitudes and expectations surrounding the integration of sustainability in product development and communication. A centrally-driven initiative was analyzed and assessed in order to demonstrate its role and effectiveness in advancing sustainability thinking in a decentralized multinational corporation, while keeping in mind the particularities of local conditions in which its units activate. The study has shown that despite declaring to acknowledge the benefits that can be brought by integrating sustainability in external product communication, there is little incentive at this stage at business unit level to take the necessary action in this direction. The main obstacles to invest local resources in the promotion of a global communication concept that aims to reveal sustainability aspects in products and solutions were identified to be: low expressed customer demand for sustainability features in products, the specific customer criteria that products need to meet and limited awareness on how sustainability arguments can be applied to the individual business profiles in order to raise their profile on the market.
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