‘The First 100 Days on the Job’: required reading

This year, I made a new year’s resolution to read one sustainability-related book per month. February’s book is The First 100 Days on the Job by Anne Augustine, published last year as a DoShort from Do Sustainability.

I wish, I wish, I WISH that I’d had this book when I started my first job in corporate sustainability… it would have saved me from more than a few mistakes!

Augustine has a background in business studies and on-the-ground experience in leading on sustainability within a large corporation, and combines the two beautifully. This short book contains just enough theory to make its concepts crystal clear, and plenty of practical advice from finding your natural allies to running a successful brainstorm.

The first gem is a pragmatic and business-focused summary of the need for sustainability to be integrated into corporations: “A shift is bringing the expectations of the world at large to the doors of organisations that have never acknowledged or responded to these challenges before.”

Far from drowning the reader in management-speak, Augustine draws on selected research that focuses the mind on key activities. For example, she notes that leaders who make a big impact concentrate on getting two factors right: creating clarity and setting standards (research from The Hay Group, quoted in Management Today) and builds on this research to outline how this can be done in a sustainability context.

Augustine is relentlessly realistic about where a sustainability leader’s energy is best focused. She notes that “some of the most courageous activities taking place are being done in spite of an apparent lack of a more traditionally defined business case” and advises how to develop a business case that is robust, clear and good enough – but spends far more time on the more pressing issue of engaging senior management, colleagues and other stakeholders.

The book is peppered with case studies from Augustine’s career, and so much of it struck a chord with my own experience, from the pressure to develop a strategy in double-quick time to being blindsided by ethical issues that no-one had spotted. (For the curious, her solution to the former is to create a short-term plan within three months, aiming for the full strategy within a year. And for the latter… well, cope with the negative PR when it happens, and don’t ignore your instinct on important issues, even if your materiality analysis argues otherwise.)

I don’t want to give away too much of this book’s advice – to get the full benefit, it should be read in its entirety. I’d recommend it without hesitation to sustainability leaders and those who aspire to a leadership role in this field.

And perhaps I should have paid closer attention … because, on second reading, it appears that Augustine shares my view that mistakes aren’t necessarily all bad. “You can and will achieve your goals. You will achieve things you didn’t set out to achieve. You will have to let some things go. And you will make mistakes.” So that’s OK, then.

Image: 100th day by Nicole Mays is licensed under CC BY 2.0