How to Become a Sustainable Company Through Co-Creation: The Story of Storch-Ciret

Aspects such as integrating sustainability, practising responsive working methods, cross-functional collaboration or strengthening psychological safety, are becoming central to the strategic planning of businesses that want to become future-proof. So why not try to tackle multiple agenda items at the same time with a process driven by employees themselves?

In early 2021, we embarked on such a journey with Storch-Ciret Group (GSC), a Wuppertal-based painting-tools supplier with over 1,600 employees in 17 countries and more than 18,000 products in its portfolio. Its CEOs, Jörg Heinemann and Daniel Rogusch, approached the CSCP with the following questions: “As market leaders in the European painting tools industry, we bear responsibility for our generation and for future generations. We have anchored sustainability in our corporate values and want to find a healthy long-term balance between economic, ecological, and social requirements. But where should we start to increase the anchoring of sustainability in our company? And how can we involve our employees so that sustainability becomes an inherent part of all our activities?”

These questions led to a series of workshops with GSC’s Executive Committee facilitated by the CSCP, discussing the company’s sustainability purpose and identifying priority areas of action. This process paved the way for the start of GSC’s project “forgenerations” in January 2022. The project team was set up in a rather unconventional way: GSC opted for an open application process and invited all its employees to invest a core share of their working time as sustainability ambassadors to work together on its sustainability roadmap and implement it step by step.

Cemile Özügul, project lead and head of marketing at GSC, explains: “The desire to think and act in a meaningful and sustainable way is constantly increasing in our professional and private lives. We want to turn words into actions and generate real change from within our organisation. For this, we need both the brains and the time of our colleagues and to provide space for experimentation.”

Today, a cross-functional project team of 25 sustainability ambassadors from sales, product development, human resources (HR), logistics, marketing and other business areas drives the definition and implementation of GSC’s sustainability measures. The “forgenerations” team works in a self-organised and responsive way with regular feedback loops, thereby fostering co-creation and ensuring results are tested before being rolled out. The CSCP’s role is to facilitate the process of introducing responsive ways of working and to provide content on identified topics such as measuring sustainability, sustainable products and business models or sustainable organisational development.

Based on our collaboration with GSC so far, here are our top ingredients for success to drive sustainability from within the organisation:

  • Start with the “Why” and strengthen the purpose
  • Set up a cross-functional team to bring in a range of perspectives
  • Introduce responsive ways of working
  • Do not treat sustainability as an “add-on”
  • Invest sufficient time for a proper kick-off phase
  • Have a clear mandate and commitment from Top Management
  • Encourage freedom to experiment

To exchange with us on how to incorporate sustainability in all hallmarks of your company through building responsive teams that drive the agenda, please contact Hanna Perrin.