I feel an increasing sense of urgency about the state of our planet. Thank goodness I’m not alone.
A lot of people my age and older realize things have to change, and fast. Many of us have invested much of our lives in trying to turn the tide; yet there is so much more to do.
I guess it really hit me last summer when I turned 50 and again last month when the eminent environmentalist, David Suzuki, turned 75.
The good thing is that informed people of all ages feel this same urgency. It’s not a function of age. It’s a function of time. The clock is ticking. As Suzuki says, we need a new life story. We need to find better ways to live within our social and environmental means on this planet.
But there is hope. Here are four business case reasons why the conditions are right to accelerate behaviour change in business.
1. There is a business case!
It’s taken a while, but finally there is a compelling business case for sustainability for virtually every industry and sector. Every year more and more CEOs agree that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) creates shareholder value. I confirmed this in research I conducted for Credit Union Central of Canada, when I developed a guide to the CSR business case for Canadian credit unions. Although written for a credit union audience, this guide is useful to anyone – including your business or organization. It’s packed full of the latest statistics and business case arguments to help you develop a CSR or sustainability strategy.
2. CEOs know that sustainability creates value for business.
At a macro or global level, most CEOs now “get” sustainability. According to a 2010 UN Global Compact Accenture study, more than 96% of CEOs believe that sustainability issues should be fully integrated into the strategy and operations of a company. That’s up from 72% in 2007. Why? Because now they can see the value of CSR to their bottom line. Top benefits include enhanced brand and reputation and improved employee recruitment and retention. A McKinsey & Company study from 2008 reports that many CFOs and investment professionals believe CSR factors create value for their shareholders. If your CEO needs a nudge, the guide to the CSR business case is a good primer.
3. Sustainability-savvy companies can outperform their peers.
Again from a macro perspective, a number of indices and quantitative analyses show that sustainability-oriented companies can outperform their peers in up and down markets. One of my favorites is that of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. It concludes that the “Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations” index achieved a total return of 23.67% and outperformed its benchmark (the MSCI All Country World Index) by 334 basis points per annum from 2005 to 2010.
4. Sustainability helps maintain and build business.
At the micro or firm level, it’s now clear that sustainable business practices can help attract and retain customers; build and maintain competitive advantage; improve employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity; and foster innovation. In addition to enhanced brand and reputation, top-line benefits for firms also include social license to operate and increased access to capital. Bottom-line benefits include opportunities for operational efficiencies and increased productivity.
Get started! Find ways to make your business or organization more sustainable. Time and tide wait for no one.
I go to Coro when I need unbiased strategic advice and expertise. There are very few people in the sustainability sphere I can reach out to who can offer both strategic and practical guidance. Coro fills a pretty unique need. She is highly attuned to best practices in sustainability and provides important insight on where sustainability is going. She liberally shares her work and her network with me.
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Corporate social responsibility is stuck. When it emerged on the scene 20 years ago, businesses and other stakeholders had high expectations for what a focus on CSR could deliver. But the reality is that neither business nor society are on track to enable nine billion people to live well within the boundaries of the planet by 2050 – let alone 2030.
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