By Bill Buratto, Ventura County Star, October 15, 2011–
We hear a lot about sustainability these days, usually in connection with the environment and natural resources.
Webster defines sustainability as “the ability to be sustained, supported, upheld or confirmed” and being sustainable as “pertaining to a system that maintains its own viability by using techniques that allow for continual reuse.”
Hal Hamilton, who co-directs the global Sustainable Food Lab, sees it this way: “We’ll all, inevitably, be thinking more about resilience — resilience to all sorts of shocks. And I rather like the word resilience — sometimes it’s better than the word sustainability.”
Increasingly, businesses are adopting programs and practices that help them become more sustainable/resilient. In general, this is in reaction to growing risks and uncertainties such as scarcity of natural resources, the price of carbon and environmental regulations. But it can also be a response to external pressures from consumers, supply chain customers, advocacy groups and investors.
Often, these efforts focus on waste management and resource efficiencies but more businesses are incorporating sustainable practices across all business operations.
Some businesses see this investment as a competitive advantage adding to the bottom line. Others see it in terms of cost cutting and risk management. Either way, businesses of all sizes are getting into sustainability.
A recent survey published in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that adopting sustainable practices are on the rise across the globe. The Third Annual Sustainability Global Executives Survey polled 4,700 executives from diverse industries around the world. The key findings include:
• 68 percent of respondents say their organization increased their commitment to sustainability in the past year.
• 74 percent of respondents say their organization’s commitment to sustainability will increase in the year ahead.
• Asked if sustainability is an increasingly competitive advantage, 67 percent said yes — a 12 percent increase over last year’s survey responses.
• 40 percent say their business model has changed because of sustainability while 46 percent said no.
• Almost half (49%) said a company’s commitment to sustainability could affect their employment choices.
So what can a business do? Another MIT Sloan Management Review article, “Sustainability: The ‘Embracers’ Seize Advantage,” noted some suggestions for businesses wanting to become more sustainable.
• Move early — even if information is incomplete.
• Balance broad, long-term vision with projects offering concrete, near-term “wins.”
• Drive sustainability top-down and bottom-up.
• Aggressively de-silo sustainability — integrating it throughout company operations.
• Measure everything for sustainability effectiveness (and if ways of measuring something don’t exist, start inventing them).
• Value intangible benefits seriously.
• Try to be authentic and transparent — internally and externally.
Friday, the Ventura County Economic Development Association will hold its 41st annual Business Outlook Conference at the Ventura County Office of Education Conference Center, 5100 Adolfo Road in Camarillo. To register or for more information, contact VCEDA at 805-676-1332.
Appropriately, this year’s conference is titled “Business SOS: Sustainability, Opportunity & Success.” The interactive conference is designed to provide businesses with the information needed to prepare for a more sustainable, productive future and to take advantage of opportunities in the green economy.
The time for more sustainable, efficient business practices is now. Doing nothing is, well, not sustainable.
© 2011 Scripps Newspaper Group