SustainabilityFebruary 7, 2023

What Does it Take to be a Leader in Business Sustainability?

By John Kitchingman, Managing Director, EuroNorth, at Dassault Systèmes
Avatar John Kitchingman

Back in 2019 we had a vision: to become a leader in business sustainability.

And then the pandemic happened. This could have prompted us to lose focus on that vision as, like many other companies, we were forced to reassess our priorities. In fact, almost half (49%) of leaders from both public and private sectors said the pandemic would make sustainability a lower priority between 2020 and 2030.

But we took the opposite approach. We doubled down. Now, four years on, not only have we achieved our vision, but we have revolutionized the way we do business.

It’s not been easy. We’re still navigating the impact of Covid-19, as well as the cost-of-living crisis, the climate emergency, the war in Ukraine… I could go on. We’re all feeling it. Over a third of the respondents to Dassault Systèmes’ most recent annual executive survey said that risk and disruption had grown significantly over the past five years.

All these challenges mean that it’s more important than ever for us – along with our partners and customers – to ensure our businesses are resilient for the long-term.

How do we do that exactly? For me, it’s about the ongoing need to contain and reframe. It’s about constantly looking at what we should start doing, stop doing and continue doing, so that our business is more effective.

Three pillars of business sustainability

To help our business, and our customers’ businesses, to build true resilience in a world of constant disruption, we’ve developed a three-pillar model for business sustainability.

  • Pillar 1: Product & Service Innovation

If you don’t have an innovative product or service, and if you don’t create innovative processes, then you’ll soon be pushed out of the market by disruptors that do.

We have a plethora of capabilities that can help with any aspect of the product or service innovation process, from concept through delivery. But what stands us apart from the rest is how we deliver those capabilities. Our role is that of trusted advisor to our customers. We take the time to understand the strategic business imperatives within their business – whether that’s around supply chain complexity, cost of goods sold, siloed processes or something else – and then address those effectively.

  • Pillar 2: Business Model Evolution

Many of today’s incumbent business models need to be completely redesigned. The good news is that, by taking the risk out of testing new modes of operation and by focusing on business outcomes, we can have a positive impact on the balance sheet of a company, as well as its growth ambition.

Our client Metsä Board is a case in point. The Finland-based paperboard company found that its existing way of prototyping – which involved physically creating a product and then shipping it to be tested – was holding it back. However, by leveraging our 3D simulation software, it has been able to transform the way it works and virtually test its products.

Markku Leskelä, who is responsible for R&D at Metsä Board, said: “Compared to physical prototyping, we can deliver data-based recommendations 85% quicker. Our customers now benefit from a much faster and far easier experience.”

  • Pillar 3: People & Workforce of the Future

I strongly believe that talent is our most important asset – and that our business should reflect that. This is particularly important at a time when issues such as mass resignation, an aging workforce and early retirement are present.

Respondents to our survey share this opinion – the majority are increasing their attention and focus on workforce development and believe that digital technology can help.

But how do we develop our workforce when many of the jobs we’ll have in ten or fifteen years don’t exist today? Well, it’s about education and equipping a new generation of employees with the digital skills that they can apply in a whole host of future scenarios.

Dassault Systèmes’ education programme – 3DEXPERIENCE Edu, offers both a physical and a virtual space for analysing the skills of the future, provides the kind of experience-based learning that will empower students to take on the jobs of tomorrow. We’ve found that extending the reach of our technology to academia can be really empowering for our clients.

Take the partnership between the new UK nuclear power station Sizewell C and Suffolk College as an example. In the next five years, Sizewell C’s biggest challenge will be recruiting up to 10,000 new engineers. They are working alongside Suffolk College to create new courses where students will get hands-on experience with the technologies from Dassault Systèmes that are used at Sizewell C, to establish their workforce of the future.

Moving forwards, together

I’ve visited a lot of customers like Metsä Board over the past few months and it has been great to see them developing their own models for business sustainability. It feels like something big is happening around product innovation, business model evolution and people. And it’s bringing us together.

This excites me a lot. Because when we start having conversations with these customers, we’re not talking about CATIA or SolidWorks or DELMIA or NETVIBES. Of course, there is a time for product conversations. But the conversations we have are about making business sustainability real. And I think that’s what we are doing for clients.

Ultimately, our customers want to implement the best programs for business sustainability and achieve the best outcomes as a result. And they want to be measured on those things. Facilitating this – and going on a journey with our customers to help them solve their biggest challenges – has not only helped us redefine what it means to be a trusted advisor, but it’s helped us become a leader in business sustainability ourselves.

Stay up to date

Receive monthly updates on content you won’t want to miss


Register here to receive a monthly update on our newest content.