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In 2016, Keep Sustainability Front & Center

Unless you were totally off the grid for the last week in September, you can’t help but have noticed the news was dominated by Pope Francis’s five-day U.S. trip. Known for his assertive views on sustainability, outlined most comprehensively in a 184-page papal letter published earlier this year, Pope Francis didn’t waste the opportunity to impress his pro-environment views on Congress – although noticeably chose not to use the often divisive term “climate change.” And with next year’s presidential campaign ahead of us, there’s no doubt that green issues will feature heavily as candidates on both sides outline their policies. It almost seems that sustainability and climate change should join politics and religion as topics to avoid in polite company (as the old adage has it).

But a recent Forbes article by two senior analysts at McKinsey & Company suggests that for business owners, sustainability (or at least a sustainable mindset) is something we should, and indeed must, all employ to survive and thrive. I’ve written before about how the sustainability movement has occasionally been held back by an image problem, perceived to be focusing on what not to do rather than what to do, when in fact it’s very much the opposite. As business owners, efficiency is our watchword, and sustainability speaks to the very heart of efficiency – and I quote from the business dictionary: “utilizing a particular commodity or product with the least waste of resources.”

So it’s exciting to read that this kind of thinking is getting the weighty support of the likes of McKinsey & Company. As they suggest in the article, it’s key that once the decision to behave more sustainably has been taken, the following structure should be put in place: define priorities, set measurable targets, evaluate costs and benefits, and create consistent incentives.

Here are a three highlights of the remarkable successes of companies that have taken that approach:

  • – Identify improvements, save on the bottom line. A major (unnamed) brewer identified some 150 possible improvements that could reduce GHG emissions – while saving $200 million over five years.
  • – Focus on the supply chain to mitigate risk. Nike tracks its suppliers on a number of metrics, including sustainability. A stronger supply chain means a more robust Nike and a larger number of companies along the line with better sustainability practices.
  • – Acknowledge resource issues, shape positive solutions for consumer concerns. Unilever has been developing liquid soaps and detergents that use less water, and sales are on the increase.

In 2016 therefore, let’s focus on the opportunities for innovation sustainability represents. There’s no doubt sustainability is a strategic imperative; it’s time to embrace it.





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