A Strategy of Sustainability Pays
Sustainability, green, social responsibility, and corporate citizenship are all descriptors used to explain the initiative of businesses doing good while doing well. In our experience, developing a strategy of sustainability is a commitment to all people, all processes, and the environment while building profitable businesses.
Business leaders are becoming more knowledgeable about how sustainability impacts their businesses but there is still a large learning curve that needs to be addressed. In a recent ASQ research study (American Society for Quality) 40% of the respondents noted they are only somewhat familiar or not really familiar with the concept of sustainability. You can see more about sustainability here: http://www.theinstituteforsustainability.com/
Depending on your business, the opportunities for enhanced business by embracing a strategy of sustainability can be multiple. In a recent study by Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship and the Hitachi Foundation (released in 2010), they verified several business opportunities generated by sustainability initiatives. It contains a comprehensive view of small, medium, and large sized US businesses.
- 72% of the companies surveyed are reducing costs through improved materials efficiency.
- 58% are manufacturing or sourcing domestically/locally.
- 53% are increasing brand awareness as “green” or socially responsible.
- 52% are designing and offering sustainable products/services.
- 50% are providing customers with more information about products’/services’ social and environmental impacts.
- 48% are offering more energy efficient products/services.
- 46% are providing frontline employees with business training to broaden and improve commercial awareness.
- 22% are using sustainability as a market differentiator.
Many of the early adaptors have been large organizations and often their adaptation was forced by customer and stakeholder pressure, regulations, or sometimes both. However, the sustainability initiative is fast taking hold in the small to mid-sized organizations for similar reasons.
Case Study 1: Berea College located in Berea, Kentucky was founded in 1855 and employs 485 people. The college focuses on providing a strong academic program as well as a holistic approach to social and environmental issues. Some of their early initiatives included:
- Developing a multidisciplinary sustainability and environmental studies program
- Developing an eco-village
- Developing sustainable agriculture
Due to these initiatives and the college’s long-term commitment to sustainability, Berea College used 52% less BTU’s of natural gas in 2009 over its 1999 usages, and provides 15% of its cafeteria food from its own farm and local producers.
Case Study 2: Johnson Financial Group, founded in 1970, is a full service financial services company and employs 1,267 people. A privately held company, they thought showing their customers that they had a commitment to keep operating costs down in tough economic times was a message of strength. Their sustainability campaign focuses on improving operations while generating social, environmental, and economic success. Their campaign includes:
- Reducing transportation
- Development green buildings
- Reducing energy use
- Paper reduction and recycling
- Waste reduction
Their results are clear. Johnson Financial has reduced energy consumption at its corporate headquarters for three consecutive years. One project saved 500,000 kilowatt hours of electricity, 17,000 terms of natural gas, and eliminated more than one million pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Case studies abound of companies who have embraced the concept of sustainability, whether by choice or by force, and have found the strategy to be a sound business move.
Sustainability is a sound investment and not just another way to drive up cost and diminish profitability. It is about looking at the big picture and doing the right things for the right reasons, while growing a successful and profitable organization.
Tammy A.S. Kohl is President of Resource Associates Corporation and a founder of The Institute for Sustainability, www.theinstituteforsustainability.com. For over 30 years, RAC has specialized in helping businesses achieve high levels of excellence and success by adopting sustainability as a critical success factor of organizational success. Learn how at www.resourceassociatescorp.com or contact RAC directly at 800.799.6227.