Sustainability as an efficient business strategy

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Jordanna Kalkhof April 14, 2020

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A variety of thoughts may come to mind when thinking about sustainability – and rightfully so. Sustainability is a complex concept that encompasses a wide range of topics.

These topics apply at both the individual and corporate levels. In fact, in the past decade, consumers have become increasingly aware of companies’ sustainability efforts. Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability Report revealed that 66% of consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands. As a result, companies began to realize the importance of incorporating sustainability as part of their overall business strategy.

What is sustainability?

The UN World Commission on Environment and Development defines sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Breaking it down a little further, these developments tend to fall into three main pillars – environmental, social, and economic.

Sustainable technology

Digital technology has vastly improved the ability to implement sustainable efforts. The Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) have made large contributions to the advancement of cleaner production, manufacturing, and consumption. However, the use of technology must be done efficiently in order to have the most effectual impact. In other words, there’s a balance. Relying too heavily on technology can quickly diminish energy efficiency and increase other forms of waste (carbon footprints), eventually becoming more costly than the original forms of waste you were trying to combat. An article in strategy+business nicely summarizes what a positive relationship between tech and sustainability could be within a company: “Bringing digital prowess and sustainable practices together should be at the forefront of strategic thinking for any business — as a way to differentiate itself and gain long-term viability among customers, regulators, and the communities where businesses operate.”

Easy sustainability efforts you can start making today

It is clear that a sustainability strategy is beneficial to a company’s overall success. This goes beyond meeting compliance standards. It also provides opportunities to improve corporate strength and develop competitive advantage. Unfortunately, while many companies are aware of these benefits, they have yet to act. A study conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group found that 90% of executives see sustainability as important, but only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy. Carving out a clear strategy will take time, but there are ways to start improving your corporate sustainability today.

  1. Make sustainability awareness a cultural trait throughout your company, from senior leadership to entry-level employees.
  2. Take a fresh look at your company’s business processes – the design and usage of products and services – to determine if there are immediate ways to reduce waste and become more sustainable.
  3. Develop a green initiative to keep your company accountable and to build corporate credibility within the community.
  4. Start small by introducing basic green efforts in the workplace. Give employees the ability to recycle. Use power strips to make it easier to turn off devices that are not in use. Keep the lights off in unoccupied rooms. Encourage carpooling.

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