Esty Environmental Partners (EEP), a sustainable business consulting firm, and IBM have launched the Sustainability Innovators Working Group, together with 12 other companies, aimed at developing new management tools and models for environmental management and corporate sustainability. EEP is the organizer of the group and IBM is both a participant and supporting partner.
Members, recognized for their best sustainability practices, are Boeing, CH2M Hill, Coca-Cola, Delhaize Group, Disney, Diversey, Dow Chemical, FedEx, Johnson & Johnson, Shaklee, Unilever, and Xerox.
Each of the participating companies is expected to leverage and share their sustainability experience and expertise as part of the working group. As examples, EEP will share its sustainability strategy development expertise, while IBM will provide consulting and analytics for improvements in energy and water use, waste reduction, and other areas sustainability, through its portfolio of Sustainable Solutions and Intelligent Systems.
Each company will apply the best practices from this collaboration within their own organizations to achieve greater efficiency, and to better identify and develop related opportunities for innovation and growth.
“Finding the right strategic response to the sustainability imperative is a core competitive challenge for companies,” said Dan Esty, EEP Chairman and Hillhouse Professor at Yale University. “Companies that meet this challenge will find new ways to reduce risks and costs, achieve growth through innovation, and enhance the value of their brand. Through our partnership with IBM and our work with these leading companies, we plan to bring sustainability strategy and execution to a new level.”
A starting point for the group’s work is the recently published Harvard Business Review article (May 2010), The Sustainability Imperative, co-authored by Dan Esty and David Lubin, EEP Senior Adviser and Chairman of the Innovators Working Group.
According to Lubin and Esty, companies need to have a clear roadmap to deliver sustainability value. The authors believe that sustainability is an emerging megatrend, thus it should have similar features and trajectories as other business megatrends such as those that force fundamental shifts in how companies compete, they say.
The authors provide several reasons why sustainability qualifies as an emerging megatrend including increased public and governmental concern about climate change, industrial pollution, food safety, and natural resource depletion. What it ultimately means is that businesses “can no longer afford to ignore sustainability as a central factor in their companies’ long-term competitiveness,” they say.