So I stop drinking bottled water and I become an expert on sustainability? Apparently. The Answer however is simple, there is no alternative to sustainable development.

However there is a paradox when it comes to sustainability and going green, the more environmental companies become, the more it will add to costs and will not deliver immediate financial benefits.

In 2010, the United Nations Global Compact conducted a survey on sustainability and found that 93% of businesses consider it critical to their future success. Whilst we view things as important all the time, we do not always make them happen. In the case of organisations, all of them need to mount a financial case to measure the impact on the business going green without impacting the business’ ability to stay in fact, in business.

As a director for an innovation consultancy, we consider the environmental impact and sustainability in everything we engage in. It is hard-wired into our business and our innovation process. At 6.2, we are seeing a clear increase in business models and shifts in thinking that help decide the impact of going green on the bottom line and importance of engaging the business for not only a financial gain, but aligning that with an emotional and critical purpose.

So to answer a perfect strangers question on building a case for sustainability. Here is a snap shot of some key areas to consider and more than likely, in this order:

  • SUPPLY: Measure everything however focus on energy, materials and natural resource usage. If you can not measure it, you can not manage it.
  • GOALS: Take information from the supply chain project and look for things you can carry out quickly. Establish goals through a Green Task Force. Then have them establish creative ways to improve the process and improve the numbers. Measure again. Create new processes.
  • GROW: What happened during the test phase, did it work, if it did roll it out to new divisions, new markets, new regions and then leverage these learnings and improvements across the business.
  • SHOUT IT OUT: Tell your people the results… we want people supporting these projects from within. Customers, staff, board, investors, suppliers, this is important, the measures and changes need  to be communicated clearly and understood.
  • MAKE IT PART OF THE SOCIAL FABRIC: If you are series about going green, then you need to build it into everything you do, your ROI, your production line, the cars your people drive. Kill or at least reduce inefficiencies, throw out duplications, get rid of crap products that don’t matter, look at your markets, segment it up, stop doing business with the time waster, choose your suppliers not just on price, but on their sustainability strategy and environmental focus.

The quest for sustainability is already starting to transform the competitive landscape, which will force companies to change the way they think about products, technologies, processes, and business models. The key to progress, particularly in times of economic crisis, is innovation. Just as some internet companies survived the bust in 2000, sustainable companies will also emerge from today’s recession to upset the status quo. By treating sustainability as critical today, early adopters will develop competencies that rivals will be hard-pressed to match. That competitive advantage will see them surge forward, because sustainability will always be an integral part of future development.

Image via GOOD (Without doubt the best blog on planet earth)
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