I recently Googled ‘sustainability’, and I got the following top-ranked results:
Web: Sustainability – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia;
News: ‘Sustainability is a business imperative’, by the CEO of Nespresso;
Images: A green image of the globe; and
In-depth articles: ‘Why Sustainability is now the key driver of Innovation’.
There are many news articles now of companies embracing the sustainability movement, Nespresso is one example, ‘Sustainability is a business imperative’. The in-depth article, ‘Why Sustainability is now the key driver of Innovation’ gives some clues as to why companies are taking note and spending big on sustainability (£330m in the case of Nespresso).
It is interesting to note that the article was written way back in 2009 for the Harvard Business Review ‘HBR’, but is still top-ranking. Maybe that is because it was published shortly after Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ had thrust the debate about carbon dioxide and global warming into the spotlight, sending feelings running high in the business world.
It is not outdated though – the central theme on ‘sustainability’ now holds true more than ever – companies are quickly realising that being environmentally-friendly means being more competitive.
The authors of the HBR article studied the sustainability initiatives of 30 large corporations and found that becoming environmentally-friendly conferred the following benefits:
- Reduced costs – fewer inputs, reduced utility costs…etc
- Increased revenues – from better products or enabling companies to create new business
Hence, they concluded that sustainability was a key to innovation and to creating a competitive advantage.
However, the authors stressed that the journey to sustainability would not be easy, and proposed five distinct stages of change, with each stage producing different challenges which would require the company to develop new capabilities:
- View compliance as an opportunity – gain a competitive advantage over rivals by turning regulatory requirements into business opportunities
- Make value chains sustainable – develop sustainable operations by analysing each link in the value chain
- Design sustainable products and services – be the first to keep up with consumer preferences
- Develop new business models – capture revenues and deliver services in novel ways
- Create next practice platforms – develop innovations that change existing paradigms
So, with the right level of commitment and leadership, sustainability makes extremely good business sense. Another HBR article, ‘The Sustainability Imperative’ describes sustainability as an emerging ‘megatrend’.
It is precisely for these reasons that businesses cannot ignore sustainability – they can be rest assured that the competition has already embraced it!
There are a number of resources and grants available to help companies get started. Some examples are:
The Carbon Trust helps businesses, governments and the public sector move to a sustainable, low carbon economy
Greenwise has a summary of the grants and funding available for the various regions of the UK
UK Business Funding Centre can help you find appropriate funding for your small business
Sustainable Routes offers a match funding grant to help businesses cut travel
Some London Boroughs offer free support under the Greening Business initiative
The Institute of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability is dedicated to supporting professionals in the industry
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