A recent global study from MIT Sloan Management Review and The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) shows that sustainability is gaining traction. Thirty-one percent of respondents to the study said sustainability is contributing to their profits, and 70 percent have placed sustainability permanently on their management agendas.
Also read “5 Ways 2011 Changed the Way You Engineer”
So why has sustainability become so critical and how can you make sustainability work in your organization?
Today we connect sustainability with words like clean technology, less pollution, low-carbon emissions and reduced energy consumption. And organizations can certainly get some reputation points by being sustainable in this sense of the word (see Sustainability: Thinking Outside the [Shoe]box).
Yet building a business case around sustainability is not always easy. Implementing a sustainability plan and sticking with it can be tough, especially if your company is not fully on board.
In terms of the product lifecycle—from product development, supply chain and manufacturing through distribution and usage—it’s helpful to understand sustainability not only in terms of environmental impacts but also how it can deliver true competitive advantage through innovation, efficiencies and increased market share and profit margins.
The MIT Sloan Management Review study identifies companies that have seen true returns on sustainability initiatives. The study dubs these organizations—such as HP, Procter & Gamble and BMW—as “Harvesters.” Turns out Harvesters have a very unique look and feel. Here are some characteristics identified in the study. Harvesters are:
- Likely to have a distinctive organizational mindset and design that support sustainability
- Three times more likely to have a business case for sustainability and 50 percent more likely to have CEO commitment to sustainability
- Twice as likely to have a separate sustainability reporting process and twice as likely to have a separate function for sustainability
- Fifty percent more likely to have a person responsible for sustainability in each business unit and more than 2.5 times as likely to have a chief sustainability officer
- Nearly twice as likely to clearly communicate who has responsibility for sustainability, more than twice as likely to have operational and personal key performance indicators linked to sustainability and 62 percent more likely to link sustainability with financial incentives
- More than twice as likely to say that sustainability has increased their collaboration with internal business units in diverse national and international locations
Does your organization have a sustainability agenda? Has it proved profitable?