Sustainable strategy expert Glenn Hoetker joins Melbourne Business School
It's heartening when organisations decide to become sustainable, but how do they actually do it? That's where Professor Glenn Hoetker comes in.
Professor Hoetker is an innovation and sustainability expert who recently joined Melbourne Business School from Arizona State University in the US. His area of expertise is the strategic side of corporate sustainability.
"My work is about understanding how organisations can cooperate to come up with innovative solutions to complex problems, and one of the biggest of those is sustainability," Professor Hoetker says.
"There are plenty of experts who work on the technical side of sustainable innovation and invention. What I do is think about how value is created or destroyed by a firm's strategic choices around sustainability."
Making a company's product or process sustainable can be a complicated project that requires the buy-in and cooperation of dozens of various parties with different, and sometimes clashing, priorities.
That's something Professor Hoetker understands intrinsically. He has more experience than most when it comes to understanding just how many different approaches there can be to the same problem, thanks to his own varied and multidisciplinary career.
At Arizona State, Professor Hoetker worked across the Department of Management, College of Law and the Centre for Law, Science and Innovation. At the University of Illinois, he was Director of the Centre for International Business Education and Research, and also held an appointment with the Institute for Genomic Biology.
Before his academic positions, Professor Hoetker was an international program analyst at NASA and conducted market research into technology for General Electric, IBM, Ford and the US government.
"Cooperation between organisations is critical," he says. "Oftentimes, the expertise you need is outside the firm and achieving the goal of sustainability requires the cooperation of suppliers, customers and other stakeholders.
"A lot of it comes down to learning to partner with firms from very different backgrounds, with a lot of different concerns and measures of success. The goal is to create value for everyone in a way that also allows the different parties to feel their interests are protected.
"Big oil companies don't typically talk to farmers or startups, for example, but if they want to get into the biofuel space, that's what required."
The first step toward sustainability, Professor Hoetker says, is identifying exactly which part of a company's operations it intends to work on.
"There are three main targets for sustainability within a firm," he says. "There's looking at the product – for example, we want to make a washing soap that doesn't damage the waterworks. Then there's process – we want to build our product in a way that creates minimal waste.
"Finally, there's purpose – what happens when a company wants to make its reason for existing to be contributing to a more sustainable planet?"
The most important message Professor Hoetker has for organisations is that sustainability concerns have become as central to strategic success as marketing, finance or HR.
"Sustainability is part of the environment in which companies operate, and if they're not part of your strategy as a leader then you're either leaving revenue on the table, incurring unnecessary losses, or exposing your firm to avoidable risks – none of which are acceptable."