Mirroring wider global trends fueled by escalating public concern, sustainability has been recast in the last two decades as a central tenet of mainstream business discourse. The onus has been placed on companies to adapt and innovate, or risk falling by the wayside. At the same time, countless business leaders continue to treat environmental questions as a subset of corporate social responsibility – a “tick-box” operating cost divorced from, or undermining, business objectives. Rather than a potential material boost to the bottom line, sustainability is often seen as a luxury investment or public relations device. Encouragingly, however, a growing body of research is adding weight to the notion of a direct link between environmental performance and profitability. From above market returns for investors, to improved financial performance and the identification of lucrative new product lines and services, a diverse set of evidence supports the view that sustainability is good for business.
Yet being convinced of the benefits in pursuing a corporate sustainability strategy is only the first step towards realizing those benefits. Sustainability is good for business, but like any other potentially effective practice, environmental performance management requires a disciplined framework to capture latent value while avoiding inefficiencies. Indeed, it is value protection, extraction and creation that lie at the heart of environmental management plans designed to achieve compliance-led risk mitigation, efficiency-led cost reductions, innovation-led revenue generation and overall competitive advantage. Successfully designing and implementing a plan of this type not only ensures a company’s license to operate, but sets it on the path to sustainable growth. Ultimately, the challenge of delivering value through environmental performance management can be understood as a four-stage process: identifying the right environmental strategies and initiatives, quantifying their value and impact, prioritizing specific actions, and maximizing the value opportunity for the entire company.
As a science and innovation company, DuPont’s experience in environmental performance management spans both an operational context, as well as a commitment to supporting and promoting sustainability advances through the DuPont Sustainable Solutions (DSS) business. Based on a long track record of delivering bottom line value through its own sustainability strategies, as well as consultation across multiple industries, DuPont has learned that a key to success is the development of a robust business decision framework. Dubbed ‘Corporate Environmental Planning’, in DuPont’s case this represents an environmental performance management system integrated with the company’s strategic business planning process. When allied with a clearly defined leadership vision underpinned by transparent metrics and accountability mechanisms, the result is an approach that prioritizes choice, while optimizing environmental spending and financial returns. Crucially, it also bridges the gap between the goals set by upper level management and participation and engagement all the way through to the shop floor.