Sustainability may be the most important strategy we have to build a better world. The business community has the power to transform society and never before have they been more important. The world needs the business community to lead efforts to combat climate change and promote social justice.
A growing number of businesses are championing sustainability and engaging in responsible corporate conduct. As demonstrated recently by corporate America this is about far more than just a marketing angle, this is about both moral stewardship and the bottom line.
We can define sustainability as a multi-faceted approach to organizational attitudes and conduct. Although this represents a daunting challenge it is both a competitive necessity and a lucrative opportunity.
Contrary to the fake narrative of the ruling US administration, sustainability enhances performance. First and foremost it must be understood that sustainability is about being profitable. A range of business leaders have demonstrated that sustainability contributes to success in a number of ways including benefiting bottom line.
Sustainability needs to proliferate and advocates need to make the case for sustainability and share it as widely as possible. In its simplest essence this is a twofold process: 1) discern value and 2) share insights.
From big businesses to start-ups, sustainability must be understood as a key success factor. To get there we need to make the case. As explained by Erik Solheim, the Executive Director of UN Environment: “We need to prove that protecting the environment is profitable and in everyone’s best interests. We can do this by holding up successful examples.”
The examples exist but they must be shared, these success stories cannot be allowed to languish in obscurity. A wide range of research has demonstrated the value of sustainability. The business case is strong and growing stronger everyday. The ROI on sustainability has been demonstrated in dozens of studies. Upfront costs have been shown to payoff over very reasonable time-frames.
There is also strong evidence showing that CSR and ESG are correlated with higher performance. A recent CDP report provided more evidence for the relationship between decoupling and growth.
By addressing shareholder concerns about vulnerabilities and risk, sustainability focused firms have been shown to be better at raising capital. Focusing on sustainability also helps to position a company to grow well into the future.
For both moral and economic reasons this is the time for corporations to break free from the perception that they are short-sighted materialists who destroy people and ecosystems.
Being a sustainability focused organization implies championing the cause and this translates to study, action, in-depth reporting and sharing results.
The perennial concern is always about cost. However, the question is not whether you can afford to get on-board the question is can you afford not to.
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