SUSTAINABILITY & THE MODERN BUSINESS PART 2

This article explores sustainability within the context of the modern business enterprise. It looks at 3 further reasons why sustainability should be a core competency of any business in 2017.

bamboo close up

For more information on Part 1, please visit the link below.

SUSTAINABILITY & THE MODERN BUSINESS

4. Create an identity

Sustainability is a great way to create an identity for your company or brand.

All companies have identities. If you think your business doesn’t have an identity, then it is probably just bland, which is still an identity, just not a particularly good one.

Sustainability offers the possibility for creating a remarkable identity. An identity, such that when people think of your products, they don’t think of the products themselves, but of the environmental performance and corporate responsibility that stand behind those products.

An example of a business that has done this would be Interface. Interface make carpets. But they don’t just make regular carpets; they make carpets using materials and processes that take less from the environment.

For more information on Interface, please watch the late Ray Anderson’s Ted Talk by clicking the link below.

The business logic of sustainability

Interface has shown an unwavering commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Their sustainability policy and strategy is unmatched. Because of this, there are a number of tangible business benefits of reduced costs, increased profits and increased attractiveness to top talent that they have benefited from.

But what about the intangible benefits?  They have undoubtedly benefited from the creation of an identity. That identity is one of a sustainability leader, not just within their industry, but as a global leader in environmental excellence.

The key takeaway is that sustainability is a great way to create an identity for your company or brand. The example of Interface showed, that even in industries that wouldn’t normally be considered exciting, the application of sustainability can make them extraordinary.

5. Opportunities to connect

Sustainability is about doing things differently. It offers opportunities to connect and collaborate in new ways.

Sustainability allows you to go beyond the normal formalities of business which discuss price and delivery, to talk about the environment and society. On the face of it, this might not sound like much, but in reality it represents a radical step change in thinking.

This level of connectivity can take a number of formats.

In a business to consumer scenario, it could take the form of H&M who ask their customers to return used clothes so that they can be recycled or re-manufactured into new products.

H&M

In a working group situation it could take the form of Unilever, who founded the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) with WWF. The MSC label enables consumers to choose seafood products from well managed fisheries. It provides independent certification that the fish come from sustainable fisheries.

MSC

This connection between a large multinational corporation and a large multinational non-governmental organisation is the exact sort of collaboration needed to achieve sustainability.

Yes, Unilever reformed their own operations. But responsible businesses also seek to reach out and reform their industries or sectors.

If you are already acting responsibly and on a journey towards sustainability, you have no fear of higher standards or regulations. I fact, you welcome them.

In a business to business situation it could be the example of Walmart who work diligently with suppliers to ensure the highest levels of social and environmental performance. Critics would argue that this is born out of a desire to improve their tarnished reputation. But an organisation the size of Walmart has phenomenal leverage. Action taken by a company of this scale to encourage sustainability throughout their supply chain is exactly the kind of transformation that is required to achieve sustainability.

The key takeaway is that sustainability offers businesses opportunities to connect with their stakeholders in new ways. These are interesting avenues, which many businesses are already pursuing. These opportunities to connect see environmental and business interests come together. Sustainability is a complex challenge. Organisations are looking to collaborate in this way as any one of them acting alone can only achieve so much. By working together, they connect and create value together.

6. Lead conversations

Sustainability offers businesses the opportunity to lead conversations in a way that few avenues can.

Take the Canary Wharf Estate. Not an organisation that one would normally associate with leadership in sustainability, but they have been grabbing headlines regardless.

With the implementation of their estate wide Clean Coffee Zone, they have demonstrated astute sustainability management. The coffee industry has been in the spotlight recently with the realisation that 5,000 disposable cups are discarded each minute, with less than 1% of these being recycled.

These paper/plastic hybrid cups are recyclable, if the correct segregation is put in place. By all accounts, the Clean Coffee Zone that has been implemented across the Canary Wharf Estate has been a great success. In only 4 months the scheme has collected 3 tonnes of coffee cups and 17 tonnes of coffee grounds. The Canary Wharf Group has been generating a great deal of publicity from their initiative

The key takeaway is that sustainability is a great way to generate interesting stories that people want to hear about and hopefully share. By demonstrating leadership in sustainability and combining this with astute communications, you can lead conversations.

What you need to know

This two part series looked at sustainability within the context of the modern business enterprise.

Over the two parts we looked at 6 reasons why sustainability should be a core competency of any business in 2017. They are:

1. Innovation

2. Build a better business

3. Stakeholder expectations

4. Create an identity

5. Opportunities to connect

6. Lead conversations

The key takeaways from this part are that sustainability is a fantastic way to create an identity for your company or brand. That sustainability offers businesses opportunities to connect with their stakeholders in new ways and that through sustainability businesses can lead conversations.

The overall essence between the two parts is that sustainability can give businesses an edge. This applies to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Why pass up such a golden opportunity.

The evidence is clear; sustainability should be a core competency of any business in 2017.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

 

 

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