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Sustainability

5 reasons to find a voice on sustainability

Published on by Tim Nixon

Organizations should speak loudly and clearly about the strides they are making with regard to ethics, environmentalism and human rights.

“Sustainability” has evolved beyond the point of an abstract concept. It has now been  clearly shown to be a better way of doing business and the ethical way to treat people and the planet.

Just as a responsible, forward-looking organization must operate in a sustainable way, it must also highlight that commitment and contribute to the wider conversation around ethics, environmentalism and human rights in business.

Reasons for that need are not hard to come by, but here are five of the most pressing:

Sustainability matters to talent

In a recent survey of 750 employees across a range of industries in Brazil, China, India, Germany, the UK and the U.S., two-thirds of respondents said they care more about sustainability than they did three years ago. Almost that same number said sustainable business was “extremely important” to them.

Another interesting element of the survey: When respondents were asked who should take the lead on sustainability, more named employers than government, consumers or employees.

In a global environment where the competition for the right talent is tight, an organization would do well to clearly and thoroughly articulate the ways in which it is pursuing sustainable business. Sustainability matters to the people who make up a company, and its story needs to be told.

Sustainability is good for your business…

A January 2016 report by more than 35 chief executive officers and civil society leaders of the Business & Sustainable Development Commission found sustainable business models could open economic opportunities worth at least $12 trillion annually for the private sector. That could translate into as many as 380 million jobs by 2030.

Even a company that excels at its core mission needs to look for new opportunities and has an obligation to pursue them. Finding the ways in which business growth and sustainability intersect and complement one another is an accomplishment that should be made known.

…and business in general

Now that consumers and clients  expect organizations to have measurable and concrete ways of acting sustainability, that pressure has bubbled up to business-to-business relationships and investment markets. Investors are seeking metrics around measures like greenhouse gas emissions and water use, and business-to-business firms are including sustainability as a factor in RFPs and contracts. It’s a force that has led companies like Barclays, HSBC, Bank of America, KPMG and Simmons & Simmons to declare they are going carbon neutral.

Waiting to be asked about operating sustainably might result in being left behind. Moving ahead of the question and proactively highlighting sustainability efforts establishes an organization as a market leader.

Sustainability aids geopolitical certainty

Environmental factors, like climate change and resource depletion, don’t affect just one country. However, certain countries worry about these more than others. We saw an example of this when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Accord and nations in Europe, Asia and Latin America reacted with concern.

Businesses are not governments, but when they speak openly about how they are acting with regard for sustainability, they show how they contribute to the global community and greater good.

Sustainability fosters substantive conversation

As industry’s largest players make sustainability more of a focus, there is great interest in learning from one another. Connecting with organization facing similar challenges fosters an exchange of ideas and strategies. On our sustainability blog, we have interviews and insights from companies like Goldman Sachs, State Street, Bank of America, UBS, Deloitte, and McKinsey.


Learn more

Our latest report, “Global 100 Greenhouse Gas Performance: New Pathways for Growth and Leadership 2017,” highlights how prosperity is connected to sustainability.

Our dedicated sustainability blog drives the conversation around human rights, environmentalism and representation in business. For up-to-date content from the site delivered direct to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter via the box in the lower right-hand corner of the blog’s homepage. Every two weeks, you’ll receive hand-picked content for when you don’t have time to visit the site.

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