The movement to adopt sustainable practices in the corporate world traces its roots back to the environmental movement and it continues to share many of the same goals and ethical perspective as environmentalism. However corporate sustainability is not just a synonym for, or re-branding of environmentalism. Sustainability is best understood as being its “own thing”; grasped in its own terms. What sets it apart from being just a form of advocacy is the growing realization, within the executive decision making centers of corporations, governmental, educational and other organizational bodies across the world that there is a powerful win-win dynamic that can be harnessed by adopting sustainable practices and that sustainability is not a zero sum game that will produce winners and losers. The public wins, the environment wins, those cute little animals win, but shareholders also win as well because sustainability makes excellent sense purely from a bottom line perspective.
In many cases business are discovering that, to an important degree, their businesses themselves can be sustained by adopting sustainable practices. There is a business case that can be made for sustainability and this argument is increasingly making it into the mind space of decision makers.
Energy Efficiency & Resource Efficiency Helps at the Bottom Line
Increasing the energy and resource efficiency within the organization increases its long term potential for making profit and can help protect a company from swings in the commodity markets or disruptions in supply. Finding ways to re-use what was previously thrown away not only reduces wastes it can often save money, open up new business angles and markets for a business that can generate brand new revenue streams. Insulating the core business from the severe and immediate impacts caused by often sudden and hard to predict resource scarcities is an important strategic consideration and sustainability, by reducing resource needs and eliminating wasteful inefficiencies can make the organization less exposed.
The Long View
The careful long term planning that is required for developing sustainable practices can often lead to better architected and better engineered organizations, to more efficient production systems, to better supply chains, to a more contented workforce and to a happier customer. Sustainability can be the institutional stakeholder that provides and advocates for this long term view. If done well sustainability can become a key corporate asset that builds value into the organization for the long haul.
More and more companies are “getting it” and sustainability is rapidly becoming a core part of an increasing number of enterprises around the world. What is telling is that these organizations are starting to discover the real tangible bottom line benefits as well as the intangible, but equally vital benefits of good will that sustainable practices generates for the organization and that doing so is becoming critical for the long term success of the organization. No longer dragged, kicking and screaming to implement the bare minimum required by an outraged society, company after company are now going further, with a few going much further and re-inventing themselves in a sustainable manner.
Despite the Recession, Sustainability Practices Are Becoming Integral to How An Ever Larger Number of Businesses Do Business
Despite the current recession and the severe contraction in the global capital markets, leading corporations across all industry sectors are increasingly making sustainability an integral element of their business strategy. Sustainability is becoming ever more integral to product development, to manufacturing, to the supply chain, to marketing and to public relations and communications. For many well run companies, sustainability is now a central factor in every single facet of their business. Not the sole or determining factor of course, but an important consideration that effects decision making at each step in the business process.
Too Many Are Still Dragging Their Feet and Much Remains To Be Done
Of course sustainability still has a very long ways to go before it is globally adopted; it is still far too peripheral in all too many corporations and business sectors. Far too many companies still do not fully incorporate sustainability into their business practices and some of these foot draggers still fight tooth and nail against the very idea of sustainable practices, seeing in them some ill defined but vaguely threatening idea… some sinister plot perhaps. Many executives and institutional cultures that continue to reject the very idea of sustainability out of hand are operating on a kind of unexamined certainty that somehow sustainability will cost them and their organizations money and make their businesses less profitable.
For some businesses this is indeed true. For businesses, whose business has been the pillage of the planet’s material and living resources, who extract a resource from one place with no other consideration beyond maximizing the immediate (and very narrowly defined) short term gain, leaving it severely impoverished and polluted, only to move on to the next place, this may indeed be the case. But it can be argued that perhaps it is best for all of us if that kind of mindset be put out of business.
Sustainability Promises a Good ROI As Well As Producing a Good Vibe
Fortunately, for many, even perhaps for most companies, a well thought out and developed sustainable practices strategic plan that is carefully staged and implemented can over the long term lead to substantially greater profitability and to greater business stability.
For example, a business that radically reduces its resource waste and energy inefficiencies is much less exposed to the potentially wild swings in resource spot prices and resource availability than its competitor that has chosen to remain less efficient per unit of output. On top of these tangible and lasting benefits an organization that pursues a bold sustainable practices agenda gets the added benefit of public and employee goodwill attached to its brand. That good will may be the deciding factor in a consumers purchasing decisions or in a promising hires decision to join the firm. That good will has real economic value.
More decision makers are realizing that sustainability can be a key factor to sustaining the organization itself; that it can indeed be a win-win proposition. These are the organizations that are positioning themselves to prosper in the green economy that will characterize the near future. Sustainability promises a good ROI as well as producing a good vibe.
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© 2009, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.