Building A Sustainability Business Culture
The business case for sustainability has been proven. Today there are over a dozen companies reporting one billion dollars or more in annual revenues from the sale of green products.
It is a rare business that has not taken some type of sustainability initiative. Most of the time it is tied to saving money through reducing energy consumption. The results are almost always a successful 1-3 year financial payback or equal to a 33-50% annual return on investment!
So the question is why are not more businesses aggressively incorporating sustainability into their business culture? A related question is what are the best practices of those companies that are embedding sustainability into their business culture?
Millennials driving businesses to adopt a sustainable culture
The millennial generation is driving the business case for sustainability. They believe climate change is real and that business has a leadership role in solving this threat to their future. They are also the generation who recognizes our nation is in a weight crisis. They see the two root cause of this health crisis being 1) work environments that demand long hours of sitting plus 2) a Big Food food supply system designed to grow sales selling addictive and fattening foods/drinks.
No business can ignore the millennial generation. They are now the most employed demographic group in America. They now have more wage related income. They are every business’s future in terms of work associates and customers.
If your company wishes to sell to millennials then it must be transparent and authentic. If your business purpose is make money you will lose with millennials. They recognize the business case for making money. But they will punish any company that has this as their purpose. One way is that they demand absolute lowest prices with no brand loyalty. Or they will just refuse to buy from a business immediately after finding a competitive product delivered by a company with purpose.
Purpose, authenticity and transparency are the business bottom line for businesses wishing to employ and sell to millennials.
Four best practices for embedding sustainability into your business
The great news is that since founding Earth 2017 ten years ago there are companies that have developed proven best practices for embedding sustainability into a business’ culture. No need to reinvent the wheel. Four best practices that embed sustainability into a business culture are:
- Leadership commitment. It does begin at the top if a business is going successfully embed sustainability into the business culture. Today we have countless numbers of companies with small sustainability departments that are achieving results on a tactical level. They are sponsoring cost saving initiatives tied to reducing pollution. They are training work associates on sustainability principals. They are writing reports. All of this is good. But few of these tactical actions result in sustainability’s adoption as a cultural attribute. This is not the case is in businesses where the business owner or CEO has committed to using sustainability as a strategic competitive advantage. Ultimately, the sustainable step in embedding sustainability in the business culture is senior leadership’s commitment to using sustainability to win competitive advantage.
- Keep it simple. Sustainability has a compelling business case. You make more money through implementing a purpose that creates a difference in terms of human/planet health. Sustainability is important because it is a 21st century path to competitive advantage. Companies that have adopted sustainability as a strategy are outperforming the S&P 500 in stock valuation. Embedding sustainability is based on this simple mission statement and goal.
- Bake in winning. Success breeds success. Engage work associates on what success means to them in terms of sustainable best practices. Let them be creative. In fact, that is the whole idea. Sustainability should generate cultural change that makes money and a difference. The goal is to win. Win customers. Win cost competitive advantage. Win the hearts of work associates. Win in making a difference.
- Inspire. Sustainability’s results will inspire a company and its work associates. It moves the business conversation from just the measurable. It gives a purpose to coming to work and working hard. The business culture will be inspiration when the emotional dots are connected between what work associates are doing with the difference they are making.
Bill Roth, Founder of Earth 2017
This is the first of a series of articles I will be posting with Caelus. These articles will focus on how businesses and communities are achieving triple bottom line success.
I founded Earth 2017 to capture case studies and video interviews on how business and community leaders are achieving sustainable results. The Earth 2017 website, and the YouTube channel Earth 2017 TV, are free resource that hosts hundreds of business case studies and video interviews.