Sustainability Mythbusters Part IV: Sustainability Is a Fad
Welcome to the Sustainability Mythbusters series presented by Schneider Electric. In this six-part series, Schneider Electricās Global Sustainability Services team explores common misconceptions related to the topic of sustainability and presents a business case to ābustā each myth. (For more in the series, see parts I, II, and III.)
Rubik’s Cubes. Pet rocks. Break dancing.
The list of popular fads that have come and gone over the decades is a long one. It’s a list that also extends into business with various management styles or marketing pushes briefly occupying the āhot spot du jourā before being relegated to a short footnote in the history books. But there’s one word you’re not likely to ever see added to that list of has-beens: sustainability.
For starters, the concept of sustainability in a business sense – the triple bottom line of profits, people and the planet – has been around for decades. Such a philosophy likely predates the formal and most widely accepted definition of sustainability which was put forth by a United Nations commission on sustainable development back in 1987. This perspective looked at sustainability as meeting the needs of the present without compromising those of the future.
In that sense, many successful businesses have always practiced sustainability; maybe not by converting their fleets to run on biodiesel or installing solar panels, but simply by running as efficiently as possible and reducing waste. They were sustainable well before sustainability became cool. And running a business efficiently is no fad at all.
Unlike other business fads that have flashed in the pan, sustainability has endured, in large part because its benefits are real and lasting. In fact, considering business efforts following the economic collapse in 2008, sustainability has persevered with many companies integrating sustainability efforts as part of their core strategies. Rewards like lower energy costs, reduced waste and more efficient transportation impact the bottom line in real and measurable ways. Sustainability has also become an important branding component that resonates with consumers who value environmental friendliness, philanthropy and corporate social responsibility in the companies they do business with. Companies committed to sustainability end up building long lasting, beneficial relationships with those kinds of loyal customers.
What sustainability has also become in recent times is a real nexus point between two topics in business: efficiency and responsibility. It is the overlap of these two areas, neither of which are trendy terms or fads in business. Companies who integrate sustainability effectively weave it throughout the entire organization so that it becomes an underlying driver for every function, from real estate and procurement to communications, marketing, sales and beyond.
Sustainability operates not in a vacuum, but throughout and across all silos of a company and all team members, whether they are in management or IT or communications, end up playing a role. As such, sustainability becomes a lynch pin for organizations. For this reason alone, sustainability has real staying power.
But there is more.
The reality is that natural resources will continue to become constrained in the future. Supplies are limited, but the demands of an ever-increasing population are not. Similarly, energy prices are expected to rise in the coming years, making oil, natural gas and other resources – and the energy they provide – much more expensive.
As this happens, businesses will be required to take a more sustainable approach to how they function. They won’t be able to ignore the parts of their business that are wasteful and inefficient, in part because they canāt afford to do so. It will become even more important for businesses to look closely at their supply chains and their costs, and to make sure they’re operating in a sustainable way. If they’re not, those kinds of companies won’t be around for long.
You may look back someday and chuckle at the time you danced the Macarena, but you aren’t likely to ever gaze in the rearview mirror and see sustainability receding off into the distance. Its benefits are too great and its implications far too crucial to ever go the way of the bell-bottom.
Andy Dewis is the Director of Sustainability (Europe) at Schneider Electric. Andy leads Schneider Electricās sustainability operations in Europe with primary responsibility to define strategies for growth across the region and drive value across the group and for customers. He has more than ten years experience supporting organizations with their business and sustainability challenges. Schneider Electric has a proven record of leading organizations to thriving sustainability programs across economic, environmental, and social dimensions. As a global leader in sustainability services, the company provides an unmatched end-to-end solution that encompasses every phase of the sustainability journey. Through our offering of strategy, technology, and implementation, Schneider Electric is able to drive successful sustainability programs that accelerate business performance. Learn more about Schneider Electricās Sustainability Services at, https://vimeo.com/58187366, or email: email@example.com.
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