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Think Big, Long-term For Sustainability Success

bsr-emissions1Firms should develop long-term sustainability strategies that rely on innovation and big goals that tie into government partnerships, according to a new report from BSR.

BSR, a consulting firm which itself helps about 250 companies with sustainability reporting, monitoring and other related services, released its BSR Report 2008 (PDF), which reads less like a typical CSR report and more like a set of guideposts for companies engaged in sustainability.

The report lays out five primary strategies for companies to successfully incorporate sustainability.

1. Develop business strategies based on long-term trends.

The report notes that some scientists think the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change study may have underestimated the worst-case scenarios of climate change. Also, water scarcity is increasingly becoming an issue not just for human consumption and agriculture but also for businesses.

When commodity prices spiked in 2008, there were protests and trade barriers erected across Africa, Asia and parts of Europe. The commodity boom came and went quickly. However, the report warns, a longer term scarcity of fuel, food and water could lead to great social unrest, making it difficult for some multinational companies to operate in certain localities, both from a sourcing and selling standpoint.

2. Innovate for sustainability and value.

The economic downturn demands that companies offer innovative products and services at a good value. Those that succeed will remain for the long haul. The economy is creating a “stress test” for company’s sustainability efforts.

Recent headlines play out this trend. With oil prices less than half of their 2008 peak, both Shell and BP have scaled back on alternative energy research.

3. Think big—develop systemic answers.

Companies that can join together to develop systemic answers for some of the world’s great foreboding problems, especially as they relate to sustainability, the environment and energy efficiency, will prosper.

The emergence of business coalitions seeking to influence the climate change agenda, such as the International Air Transport Association, is but one example.

4. Refocus on partnerships with governments.

With nations around the world pumping stimulus funds into their economies, the time is right to build relationships with political entities. Doing so serves to provide R&D funds, developmental financing and an avenue toward increased sales of environmental products and services.

Lobbying efforts must be aligned with corporate responsibility objectives, the report notes.

5. Rebuild trust.

The breakdown of the global financial sector, along with it plummeting 401k funds, has consumers fearing the worst in corporate motives. Faith in the private sector is at its lowest point in decades.

Businesses must reconnect with the public in ways that resonate, such as demonstrating energy efficiency, as well as stewardship to the environment and society.

Within BSR’s own operations, the staff count increased 49 percent in 2008, reflecting the increasing interest in sustainability reporting by corporations. The company’s revenues grew from $10.3 million in 2007 to about $12.9 million in 2008.

Because of its nature as a consulting firm, about 58 percent of the company’s emissions are related to flights (see image above).

Here’s a look at the carbon footprint of BSR’s various offices.

bsr-carbon-footprint

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