Upgrading an Outdated Approach to Sustainability
News Sustainability programs began by “doing less bad.” Companies set to thrive in today’s age of climate disruption, however, recognize business as a force for good.
Today’s progressive companies recognize that social and environmental responsibility go hand in hand with exceptional business opportunity. Customers expect their favorite brands to lead authentic and impactful sustainability programs, and job seekers seek purpose driven work.
Then vs. now
Historically, voluntary green teams focused on straightforward actions like recycling or energy efficiency. Now, investors and stakeholders demand far more transparency and insist on understanding climate change related risks. Astute CFO’s seek to reduce risk and cost, and a study recently reported that 91 percent of millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause (compared to 85 percent of the population).
"Businesses must shape and support the regulatory changes required to preserve the natural systems that people, communities and companies need to thrive."
What gets measured gets managed. Businesses must go beyond measurement, disclosure and conservation. They must value the natural capitals on which their future depends. Natural capitals must now be reflected on the balance sheet. What gets valued gets preserved. The English Proverb sums it up: “We never know the worth of water ‘till the well is dry.”
Companies are embedding sustainability into R&D while seeking “cradle to cradle” solutions that reduce or eliminate resource waste in the production cycle. A variety of tools and frameworks inform today’s sustainability programs. A lifecycle analysis (LCA) assesses the full scope of environmental impacts associated with a product from raw material selection to disposal; greenhouse gas accounting informs time-bound reduction goals; and a materiality analysis identifies the most pressing supply chain and operational risks. These tools help companies know where to focus their efforts and provide critical support to public disclosure and reporting.
The need for more aggressive private sector leadership has never been greater. Businesses must demonstrate a willingness to align corporate sustainability operations, strategy and policy. Voluntary corporate efforts will continue to be a critical pathway for innovation, but these efforts alone are not sufficient to meet the scale of resource challenges we face.
Businesses must shape and support the regulatory changes required to preserve the natural systems that people, communities and companies need to thrive. In fact, a new term has been coined, “ThriveAbility,” It focuses on the positive benefits of collectively living within our means.
Today’s thought leaders, innovators and top performing organizations recognize that business as a force for good is the new normal. Authentic companies can be one critical solution to some of our greatest challenges. Their innovation and leadership can inspire individual behavior change, helping to catalyze the societal shift necessary to ensure ThriveAbility.