Captain Planet, America’s environmentalist superhero from the early 90’s was way ahead of his time. The series focused on taking on the “eco-villains” wreaking havoc on the planet and sacrificing sustainability for profits. In the real world, the rate at which climate change is growing mirrors the fact that we haven’t been able to safeguard the planet. With no Captain Planet to save us and no ‘Plan’et B we can escape to, sustainability business has become the buzzword we should all care about.
Quick fact check
Fact #1: Global temperatures are likely to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next two decades (Source)
Fact #2: Just about 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988 (Source)
This is the kind of powerful impact that industries and businesses are creating on the global environment.
What is sustainability in business?
Ever heard of terms like blue economy, green financing, carbon neutrality and biomimicry? To put it simply, a sustainable business is one that owns up to its environmental and social responsibilities through its goals, operations, products and services. Sustainability revolves around three core principles, the 3 P’s – Profit, People, and the Planet.
A business’s sustainability is perceived by analysing how a given enterprise functions in the ecological, social and economic environment. The goal is to minimize the exhaustion of natural resources and preserve it for future generations. There are various means to go green. From minimizing waste, reducing pollution, transitioning to renewable energy to preserving water, using sustainable materials, and more.
Why is sustainability important for businesses?
Sustainability as a business concept is important for longevity or survival. To achieve business sustainability goals, companies need to develop comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies. These practices are designed to uphold the principles of sustainability. Green businesses can reap multiple benefits such as lowered business costs, more advanced strategies, an enhanced brand image, higher competitive edge and a larger new customer base. A 2011 McKinsey survey on the business of sustainability found that 33% of businesses were integrating sustainable practices to improve operational efficiency and cut costs.
A great example of a business that has successfully implemented sustainable CSR strategies is Lego, a popular toy brand. Lego ranks at No.1 for CSR as a result of its conscious decision to make Legos from plant-based sources. The brand followed through its promise by manufacturing products from leaves and sugarcane. This Danish toy company aims to use sustainable materials for all of its main products and packaging by 2030. As a consequence, the brand’s reputation has risen steeply.
Making the switch to a circular economy
Today global conversations revolve around the phrase: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. This is the core principle used to create a circular economy which in turn is a key CSR strategy for sustainable development. Unlike the standard linear economy that involves using raw materials, creating products and throwing the resulting waste; a circular economy seeks to reuse that waste. By promoting the use of renewable raw materials and reusing resources, businesses generate a much lower volume of waste. This in turn helps to lower negative effects of climate change, carbonization and much more. A circular economy provides innovative ways to create a more sustainable economic growth model across the globe.
Keeping in line with changing trends, Emeritus has collaborated with Cambridge Judge Business School Executive Education to offer a dynamic programme that’s designed to help you develop the vocabulary and vision on how to build a business culture of sustainability, fundamentals of a circular economy and lots more.
How to develop a sustainable mindset
While there is no single way to implement sustainability, corporations can design innovative strategies through creative business planning. The versatility of going green means that industries or enterprises can choose from different means to create sustainable solutions in four distinct areas: human, social, economic and environmental. A great way to start is to provide appropriate labelled recycling bins at workplaces and adopt compost programs.
Switching to green travel policies is another great choice. It would mean encouraging employees to choose eco-friendly options of travel such as public transport, carpooling and choosing electric bikes or scooters. Green commuting can help to cut down on daily emissions and contribute to sustainability. Remote work options and video conferencing are some other alternatives. Transitioning to digital by switching to computers, smartphones, and other devices instead of paper is another excellent way to inculcate a sustainable culture or work.
Sustainable businesses that inspire us by going ‘green’
1. Occidental Petroleum: Decarbonizing for a green future
In an attempt to decarbonize their operations and value chains, Occidental Petroleum, one of the largest international oil companies in the United States partnered with Canadian start-up Carbon Engineering to build a plant that will capture and bury 500,000 metric tons of CO₂ each year.
2. Patagonia: Energizing the future with solar power
In 2019, CEO Rose Marcario of Patagonia; a sustainable sports clothing brand announced that they would be completely CO2 neutral by 2025. By harnessing the power of solar energy, the brand plans to develop a fully sustainable production cycle. Additionally, they would comply with strict standards in production and raw materials.
3. Tony’s Chocolonely: Beating the heat
Winner of the Sustainable Brand Index 2019, Dutch company, Tony’s Chocolonely focuses on making the cocoa industry fair trade and free from slave work. They do not use palm oil in production and are implementing various strategies to offset and minimize climate change emissions. Moreover, to create a positive social impact, they are collaborating with Justdiggit, a non-profit organisation, to measure their climate impact and stay accountable.
4. Ørsted: Minimizing the Carbon Footprint
One of the largest renewable energy developers, it is one of the world’s most sustainable energy firms. The company has set a target to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025. Having moved from using fossil fuels to renewable energy for their operations, this company sets an example on how enterprises can adapt a sustainable model.
5. Kering: Transforming Fashion by Going Green
Luxury and sustainability are the same to Kering, parent corporation for luxury brands such as Gucci, Saint Laurent, Bottega Veneta, Ulysse Nardin, and Pomellato. The company has centralized all its operations around its social and environmental strategies. Moreover, Kering has developed an innovative tool for measuring and quantifying the environmental impact of its activities.
How can senior managers and C-suite professionals help make an impact?
One of the main success factors for sustainable development of a company is the initiative and vision of its top management. That is to say, experienced leadership can go far in nudging their businesses into a greener model. There are plenty of examples of how businesses have become profitable while meeting sustainability goals.
They are integrating sustainability in core strategies and setting corporate performance measures. The 2018 Report of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate concluded that by the year 2030 — 12 years hence — the amount of money humanity could save through a global shift to sustainable development is $26 trillion.
How can Emeritus help?
Gauging the growing demand for such experienced and skilled leaders, Emeritus offers Imperial Sustainability Leadership, a well-structured online certificate programme that’s designed to help you evolve as a business leader to meet the needs of a rapidly evolving sustainable future. Explore the environmental and social impacts of business and the role of technology in supporting sustainable business model innovations. Speak to us to learn more!
By Preethi Jathanna