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Sustainability Mythbusters: Debunking the Sustainability Myths

fraser, mike, schneider electricWelcome to the Sustainability Mythbusters series presented by Schneider Electric. In this six-part series, Schneider Electric’s Global Sustainability Services team explores common misconceptions related to the topic of sustainability and presents a business case to “bust” each myth.  

  1. Sustainability does not make business sense

Anyone who would say that there is not a business case for sustainability might want to talk to Cabela’s. The outdoor retailer saved more than $1 million in just two years by improving energy management and efficiency in 10 new stores.

Skeptics could also look at beverage company Brown-Forman, which expects to cut 350,000 annual truck trips in 2014 by moving its Jack Daniel’s distillery and warehousing operations closer together. Or they could look at Kittitas Valley Community Hospital, which saved $200,000 after simply taking the time to analyze and improve its energy usage.

There are plenty of dollars and cents examples out there that clearly lay out the business case for sustainability. Beyond that, however, is a long list of reasons that further strengthen the sustainability case; a list so long, in fact, that it turns this myth completely on its head and makes the exact opposite true. Sustainability makes complete business sense in myriad ways.

For starters, many companies these days have been experiencing increased demand from investors, shareholders, retailers and consumers for greater commitment to sustainability. And what starts as more demand often ends up becoming a requirement. For example, shareholder resolutions focused on sustainability have been on the rise over the past few years. Such resolutions may only inform discussions initially, but with enough support they often become mandates that not only call for but support sustainability initiatives.

For companies in certain industries, sustainability can be an imperative for doing business at all. Forestry companies must manage their timberlands for future harvests, and mining companies are often required to meet rigorous environmental standards in order to receive the licenses they need to conduct their business in the first place.

Likewise, more and more large companies are beginning to require a commitment to sustainability from their suppliers. The most well-known of these, Wal-Mart, launched its sustainability index in 2009 to begin rating its suppliers based on their own sustainable practices. The retailer expects to source 70 percent of the goods it sells in the US by 2017 only from suppliers who make sustainability cut. Those who don’t will be missing out on a big business opportunity: the average Wal-Mart store carries more than 120,000 items.

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