If you see sustainability as a cost and not an investment, then it could be because you see sustainability as compliance – something that you are forced to do.
Now that we have removed Darth Vader from the room safely locked him up in a secure cupboard, let’s have a constructive look at arguments for sustainability and sustainability practices.
Let’s face it, no business person worth his or her salt is going to value something unless it provides return or reduces risk. Return is not necessarily in immediate money but sometimes can be in intangibles – that later can have a monetary value assigned to it.
Excellent sustainable practice can lead to access to new customers, those large entities that are taking sustainability seriously and not kicking it to the touchline in these difficult times – but are making sure that it has a prominent role to play in their business operations. Sustainability practices and proof thereof also provide access to new markets and cross-border trading.
Some argue that sustainability provides competitive advantage for their business, doing things the right way and differentiating themselves from their competitors. These business owners are in it for the long haul – they have realised that in the medium- to long-term their businesses will grow on the platform they have chosen.
But one has to be careful here because some businesses hype their sustainability merely to try to increase revenues. However, when you closely examine their sustainability practices and look for proof, you realise that they are only paying lip service to it and their commitment is not as strong as they pretend it to be.
There are many other reasons and benefits for sustainability in a business but in this short piece we will look at reputation. Darth Vader types stop rattling your chains and read on. Anyone, including individuals take their reputation seriously and for good reason. A commercial entity or institution doesn’t want to be branded as doing harm to the environment, isolating itself from the real world, not investing in society or practicing unethical behaviour.
Sustainability comprises a large part of reputation management and ultimately brand worth. I hear Darth Vader types rattling their cage at these so-called tangible values. But let’s ignore them for the moment. Ultimately, employees, suppliers, and other key stakeholders prefer to be associated with businesses that are good for the environment and society. Some shareholder groups are excluding businesses that aren’t committed to sustainability and who hide the risks that the broader environment and society have to the business if they carry on with “business as usual”.
Sustainability in your business isn’t a sticker that you can pluck onto your product or service saying that you are eco-friendly or green. If you want the benefits of sustainability, then get involved and make the right decisions instead of ducking and diving and not putting your money where your mouth is. Sustainability practices take time, effort and money and if you aren’t willing to get started now and commit yourself, then you might as well as accept being relegated to the B or C teams and give up hopes of making it to the real top sides.