Image courtesy of Seventh Generation
If the corporate responsibility (CR) movement has had one overriding success, it's that it's done a great job communicating the advantages business sustainability can bring to the environment and society at large. Even the most myopic executives know embedding CR in their corporate strategy is a boon to the environment, communities, employees, and other stakeholders. The problem is that too many companies are still wondering what's in it for them.According to a new study by the MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group, over 70% of companies have yet to develop a clear business case for addressing sustainability. Despite measurable progress toward making CR standard business operating procedure, corporate sustainability is still too often seen as an altruistic endeavor. But what's equally certain, if a lot less understood, is that CR is also a potent profit driver and value creator for companies.
If your business hasn't yet seen the light, you need to see the evidence the Sustainability Institute has gathered. CR is a lot more than a good deed. It's something smart companies should undertake even if their primary focus is making a buck.
Why? Because this is not your father's economy. Fundamental changes are taking root, and success will soon depend on a corporation's resilience to resource scarcity, global climate change, evolving consumer expectations, and changing regulatory and investor requirements. In the new order, profitability will come from a company's ability to consistently innovate within these constraints, manage brand reputations as transparency escalates in today's information age, and meet the ever increasing expectations of corporate citizenship. Businesses that fail to adopt CR will fail to address these challenges and ultimately fail to thrive. The handwriting is on the boardroom wall:
- A 2009 GMA/Deloitte Green Shopper Study discovered sustainability considerations now either drive or influence the buying decisions of more than half of all shoppers.
- CalSTRS, the nation's second largest pension fund, with over $130 billion of assets, earlier this year stated its intention "to invest in well-managed companies that can address the physical risks of climate change and adapt to the changing regulatory and market realities of a carbon-constrained economy."
- An A.T. Kearney analysis finds that companies committed to sustainability practices achieved above-average financial market performance during the recent recession. In 16 of the 18 industries examined, companies recognized as sustainability-focused outperformed their peers.
- According to 2009 IRI data, sales of "green" household products grew 71% compared to 2.5% for traditional household products.
These are just a few snapshots of a revolution in progress. And there are many more where these came from in the Sustainability Institute Resource Center.
The Sustainability Institute is a joint effort of Seventh Generation and Kaplan Eduneering, offering an online learning program designed to teach the strategic integration of sustainability to thousands of businesses and their millions of employees. I encourage you to hear what it has to say.
Jeffrey Hollender is the co-author of the recently published book, The Responsibility Revolution. The Co-Founder and Executive Chairman of Seventh Generation, and a Co-Founder of the American Sustainable Business Council and the Sustainability Institute, Hollender also shares his insights at The Inspired Protagonist, a leading blog on corporate responsibility.
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