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Report: How Smaller Companies Profit From Sustainability

Sustainability is a growing priority among small- and medium-sized businesses – and according to three national accounting bodies, more than half of surveyed businesses will have a sustainability strategy in place in two years’ time.

In a joint survey, the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) found that 23 percent of smaller companies have plans to formulate a strategy in the next two years, and 33 percent have a sustainability strategy in place already.

The groups then looked for the smaller businesses that were making a profit – from a business model based on environmentally sustainable principles.

Their findings are collected in a report, SMEs Set Their Sights on Sustainability: Case Studies from the UK, US and Canada, which focuses on nine case studies – three each from the UK, U.S. and Canada – showing the different approaches these companies have taken to use sustainable practices to their advantage.

Among the results outlined in the case studies:

•  Canadian food company Rocky Mountain Flatbread re-engineered pizza while developing a profitable restaurant chain and catering company with the expressed goals to reduce waste, minimize emissions, and participate in the community. Its sustainability plan encompasses relationships with suppliers, customers and employees. The company sources 90 percent of its produce locally, consults with urban gardeners and funds community projects. Two of its locations are carbon neutral, the report said.

•  Zions Bancorporation and its subsidiary National Bank of Arizona (NBA) launched Zions Energy Link, a division of the bank specializing in the sustainable energy finance sector. According to the report, Zions Energy Link has also reduced its power use from the grid by 40 percent  with a solar installation, while maintaining a profitable business model financing renewable and energy efficiency projects.

•  UKOS, a U.K-based stationery and business supplies provider has not only reduced energy costs by an average of 5 percent year-over-year for the last four years, but has also increased sales and profits by differentiating itself as a sustainable supplier, the report said. UKOS was tops on the “The Sunday Times” Best Green Companies List in 2010, but slide to eighth in 2011, according to the company website.

Photo: Rocky Mountain Flatbread

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4 thoughts on “Report: How Smaller Companies Profit From Sustainability

  1. We are finding that SMEs have a great interest in getting into the sustainability action, and are open to look at their operations from the standpoint of embedded, rather than bolted-on sustainability.

  2. For an accessible and carefully-crafted account of the strategic principles behind success across a much larger set of SME’s, I would refer you to my book, “Companies on a Mission: Entrepreneurial Strategies for Growing Sustainably, Responsibly, and Profitably.”

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