Why all businesses should embrace sustainability

It’s good for the planet, ok! But how does it affect the company’s bottom line?

 image by: WBCSD Communications

We’ve often stressed the importance of sustainable behavior at the level of individuals, but also and most notably, at the level of large companies, particularly in the last few years. But hey, we’re in a capitalist society where even the most important issues don’t matter if they don’t positively impact the companies’ bottom line. So now more than ever, sustainability should be the main concern of the different players in the market.


Sustainability consists of generating long-term value by taking into consideration how an enterprise functions in the ecological, social and economic environment fostering company longevity. As the expectations on CSR increase, and as transparency becomes more prevalent, companies are feeling pressured to blend in and act on sustainability. However, marketing communications and positive intentions are no longer sufficient. Today, sustainability has an urgent incentive for firms to connect with consumers.

In this current climate, almost every business will benefit from embracing sustainable practices. Generating profit all whilst improving environmental and societal conditions is what characterizes a sustainable business. This should include what it produces as well as how it operates. There are lots of ways that being more sustainable will help businesses, but these should beware of two gaps that need to be bridged in order for them to stand out in the area of sustainability. First, “The knowing – doing gap”, executives find sustainability to be important, but only a few companies incorporate sustainability in their strategy, and an even smaller portion have sustainability incorporated in their business model. Second, “The compliance – competitive advantage gap”, management should address these topics separately. While compliance is holistic, for competitive advantage, only a few material issues count.

For a company to become more efficient, attract and retain employees, improve its reputation and even achieve better growth through sustainability, it has to incorporate these practices into the core business. The achievement of this incorporation could be done by employing environmentally sensitive marketing, a sustainable supply chain, partnerships with companies with similar values and finally through updating the mission statement.

image by: youmatter.world

There are many different benefits to becoming more sustainable as a business especially when conscientiously integrated into business operations. The major advantages for practicing sustainability are:

Improving brand image and competitive advantage. Clearly one of the most obvious benefits. According to myriad researches, consumers are more likely to purchase from companies that practice sustainable habits. Advertising campaigns are heavily relying on that aspect to improve brand awareness through “doing good”. To site an example, Colgate’s Superbowl ad to encourage saving water.

Helping address problems within Modern industry. Everyone’s polluting the environment in one way or another, but when large corporations fail to acknowledge the significance of their contribution to emissions and waste, it poses a huge danger. Whilst most companies aren’t quite as polluting as the giants, such as Chevron, Shell, Coca-Cola or Nestlé, it’s this that indicates that even a single business can have an impact on the climate. 


Helping maintain resilience and improving risk management. The harm that climate change is inflicting on our planet is unquestionable, companies rather than ever should expect the unexpected. By integrating sustainability into their business plan, it would give the prospect for an immense potential benefit for the economic future of the organization.


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Increasing productivity and reducing costs.  Creation of sustainable management practices lends itself to effective activity that streamlines effort and conserves resources, which enhances employee productivity and lowers cost. Cost control also includes energy saving measures that can be as easy as turning off unnecessary lights and insulating walls to more complex initiatives such as the implementation of geothermal heating and cooling systems. These initiatives, which have a larger cumulative effect, are expected to be more costly to implement, but the long-term results warrant the investment. Through re-examining their business portfolios, businesses may assess the potential impact of trends that could lead to new growth opportunities or unmet consumer segments. For instance, by measuring the life cycle of steel products, ArcelorMittal innovates by creating offerings that minimize steel’s negative environmental impacts.

Attracting employees and investors. People want to be identified with positive messaging, particularly younger generations raised on a steady diet of environmental protection messages. They do not want to be linked to businesses embroiled in natural crises and security controversies.

Making shareholders happy. Sustainability should be used not only to lower costs, but also to raise revenues. In its 2014 study, McKinsey surveyed 40 companies to recognize sustainability issues and to seek realistic advice to capture sustainable value. They report that an analysis by Deutsche Bank has found that businesses with strong environmental, social, and governance scores have outperformed the competition in the medium and long terms.

Returns on capital. Improving capital returns also means reducing operating costs by more effective use of natural resources (such as energy use and waste) and through the comprehensive management of value chains. For instance, through a packaging “scorecard” that reduced packaging across the company’s global supply chain, Wal-Mart, created USD 12 billion in global supply chain savings. Additionally, businesses may add value by enhancing retention of employees by intent alignment, increasing prices or achieving greater market share with new or existing sustainable goods.


Indeed, organizations exist to meet a market need that creates the requirements for financial sustainability. However, progress on threats to sustainability is not at odds with economic growth. In reality, It can increase business efficiency, spur technological innovation, encourage brand loyalty, and enhance employee engagement by incorporating sustainable practices into the activities of an organization.