Business beyond Reputation: Equipping Sustainability

“Sustainability” is a term that we hear quite often these days; businesses are often heard using this word with much weight and for good measure. The dictionary defines “Sustainability” as “The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level” or “Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance.” Sustainability is the way forward. As Macroeconomics teaches us, resources are scarce, and people’s wants are unlimited. Hence, in a world that is increasingly crowded by finished products, at the cost of depletion of the natural ones, it is only safe to say that Sustainability has a long way to go, and it is high time that sustainable practices are applied onto every facet of our lives. It is worthwhile to note that Sustainability by businesses need not necessarily cover only the grave issues that humankind as a whole face today, but it can be small, seemingly trivial issues as well.

Sustainability through Societal Marketing

Societal Marketing takes into consideration the long-term benefits and interests of the entire society, and Sustainability being one of the benefits of society, do come under Societal Marketing. By taking a people-centered approach, organizations can truly commit to the mantra of sustainability through Societal Marketing. Companies like Star Bucks, GE and the Body Shop has been increasingly using Social Responsibility to preserve the environment all the while sustainably growing its business.

With increasing consumer awareness, companies and firms have to up their entire business processes to suit the changing needs of their consumers. With this in mind, Sustainability has been a hot topic for years now; it is only getting somewhat traction in the form of actual landmark events now. However, marketers must also call to action the common man (consumers) to support these businesses in their initiative, thereby increasing people engagement from the grassroot level.

Examples of Sustainability by businesses

a)     Unilever recently achieved a landmark 100 percent renewable energy target which means that all of its Warehouses, Data Centres, Research and Development (R&D) Centres, Distribution Offices are powered by one hundred percent renewable energy.

b)     Pedigree’s Adopt a Homeless Dog initiative aims to find every dog with a loving owner.

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Source- https://www.pedigree.com/helping-dogs/adopt

c)     GE publishes a sustainability report (Environmental, Social and Governance Results) that outlines its emission data and relevant discussions on the same can be found in the report as well.

Link- https://www.ge.com/sustainability/sites/default/files/GE_ESG_KPIs_RY2017_r13_Aug2018.pdf

d)     Nike adheres to its goal of fighting climate change and has an initiative called “Move to Zero” that aims at 100% renewable energy operated and owned facilities latest by 2025. Another unique prospect about Nike is the fact that it uses more than a billion plastic bottles to make fabric and shoes out of.

Source- https://news.nike.com/news/nike-move-to-zero-climate-change-initiative

Technology and Sustainability- How companies can leverage new technologies

Sustainability analytics is the new hotshot in town-by collecting a multitude of data points from a myriad number of sources including greenhouse gas emissions, resource and energy usage, the performance of the supply chain, companies can draw out relevant statistics with the help of big data analytics. This enables the companies to clearly find out trends and gives them a clear picture of where to start acting. Metrics is extremely important in today’s data-driven economy and sustainability is just another addition to the growing ecosystem.

With the tools at their disposal companies can conduct real time analysis of sustainability performance and set goals accordingly.

Benefits of using Sustainable products by businesses

Gone are the days when companies used sustainability only to boost its corporate brand image and place itself in the mind of its consumers in a positive manner. Research has backed up the fact that companies using sustainability practices experience better functioning and better profit margins.

Continuing with one of the previous examples, Unilever has stated that its Sustainable line of products has witnessed a staggering 69% more growth than its other product lines.

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Source- https://www.unilever.com/news/press-releases/2019/unilevers-purpose-led-brands-outperform.html

·        Sustainability practices enables a company to stay ahead of its competitors. The business can also impress its ever-knowledgeable consumers by showing them hard evidence through data points- this is how important data combined with sustainability is. And with social media at its disposal, companies can not only impress its global audience but also attract prospective investors and venture capital firms willing to invest.

·        Sustainability has long hinged on a few common topics till date- global warming, depleting natural resources, ecological imbalance- environmental sustainability to be precise. But now it has been observed that sustainability can be applied to other areas of business processes as well, such as production levels, number of employees, the volume of sales, the productivity of a particular facility to name a few.

Need of the hour

Employees in the organization have to be trained in the new processes of sustainability management, thereby adding value to both the employee (in terms of learning and career growth) as well as the organization. Also, with changing sustainability needs, companies need to continuously polish the methods and tools available at their disposal, thereby keeping on (or sometimes ahead) with the times.

Exhibit- 1 below shows the practical advantages that a company gets when it incorporates sustainability in its day to day practices.

EXHIBIT-1

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Source- https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/the-business-of-sustainability-mckinsey-global-survey-results

EXHIBIT- 2

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Source- https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/the-business-of-sustainability-mckinsey-global-survey-results

The exhibit above shows that although companies have integrated the basic flavors of sustainability into their mission and values, integrations into the supply chain, budgeting, marketing has been low.

EXHIBIT- 3

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Source- https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/sustainability/our-insights/the-business-of-sustainability-mckinsey-global-survey-results

However, it is disheartening to see that the upper management in businesses doesn’t pay much importance to sustainability management, as is evident from Exhibit- 3. A change in perception is necessary where the importance of sustainability is understood by all stakeholders in the organization- from its employees to its middle and upper management to its board of directors. Only then can much more effective practices be put into play which will further the help the company streamline its processes and increase its productivity and revenue.

To conclude, although sustainability has been incorporated into the business ecosystem a lot better than before, a massive chunk of it is still left to be effectively organized, especially the technology part. The world will be a much better place the day every last company decides to integrate sustainability into its core values and functioning. After all, it is a win-win situation for everybody.


References and sources-

https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/social-marketing-behaviour-change

Click to access dttl-analytics-us-ba-sustainability3minguide.pdf

https://www.unilever.com/news/press-releases/2019/unilevers-purpose-led-brands-outperform.html

https://news.nike.com/news/nike-move-to-zero-climate-change-initiative

P.S- This article was my submission for a Business Article Writing Competition.

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