Why would you engage in sustainability?
A few years ago you might have considered sustainability to be the realm of the “tree hugging hippies”…
But thanks to a wave of public awareness in 2019, sustainability has become the ‘sexy new trend’ everyone seems to be jumping on.
From Instagram influencers who can fit a whole year of their trash into a mason jar, to companies going green to attract new customers, the quest to cool the planet is hotting up.
The problem is, most companies don’t really know why or how to get involved.
They look to their marketing department for creative green campaigns, or they run staff competitions for eco-friendly office ideas – like using a central bin instead of individual bins under everyone’s desk, or switching the lightbulbs to more energy efficient ones.
While these micro-actions are a good first step, they don’t encourage an embedding of sustainability at a deep and meaningful level.
And given the complexities involved, it’s easy to understand why businesses might be reluctant to take their sustainability journey further.
Coca Cola was recently criticised for failing to pledge to move away from plastic bottles for fear it would harm profits – committing instead to larger recycling targets.
The negative press alone would be enough to put any business off going public with their sustainability plans – but things get even more complex when you consider that the glass bottle alternatives may actually have a higher carbon footprint!
Unless a business has expert in-house knowledge to find the most eco-friendly solutions, it’s not always easy to know how to go green.
And you’ll need more than the “save the planet” narrative to get your C-Suite to invest.
Most people, when asked why they engage in sustainability, talk about leaving a legacy – making the world a better place for their children and grandchildren.
A CEO is likely to be motivated by their legacy too. Except their legacy will usually be measured by their contribution to the company’s KPIs, not the planet.
That’s why we need sustainability to break free from the confines of the marketing department and be recognised for the true contribution it can make to business performance across the board.
If you want your company to make a deeper commitment, you need to show them the potential for ROI.
You need to make a real business case for sustainability.
“I think that the world has reached a tipping point now. We’re beyond the debates over whether [addressing sustainability] is something that needs to be done or not — it’s now mostly about how do we do it. And from an ecomagination perspective, it’s not about altruism, it’s about creating value.”
Steve Fludder, vice president, ecomagination, GE