Sustainability: Shifting the Conversation from Saving the Whales for Tomorrow to Creating Value Today.

Feb 3, 2011   //   by Bradley Short   //   Blog, Company Culture, Marketing & Communication, Terminology  //  No Comments

Do you get blank stares or encounter resistance when you talk about sustainability in your workplace?  You know that sustainability is good business, and has shown to create both corporate and social value, but it can still be hard to explain to your coworkers. How do you go about bridging any knowledge gap and explaining it in easy to understand business terms?

What does sustainability really mean?

The first thing you’ll probably have to do is find common ground on the meaning of the word “sustainability.” A recent Guardian article provides a simple definition that almost gets it right:

“Sustainability is conducting your business in such a way that future generations can do the same.”

Indeed, a truly sustainable business model is one that provides future generations access to opportunities available today, but sustainable business also brings as many benefits today as it does tomorrow.  As customers, employees, governments, and citizens continue to demand companies to be more environmentally and socially responsible, sustainability quickly moves from an idea that is exclusively focused on the distant future to one that matters here and now.

Sustainability is conducting your business in such a way that it will be able to continue to run, not just in the distant future but today, tomorrow, and the next day.

With that in mind, consider some of these tips for bridging the communication gap.  By helping your coworkers break their conventional ideas of sustainability, they’ll discover for themselves that in the future, the only viable business will be a sustainable business.

  1. Explain to your coworkers that sustainability helps create business processes that allow your company to be competitive and innovative now, and in the future, rather than acting simply as a feel-good idea with potential rewards only coming many years down the road.
  2. Remind them that becoming more sustainable now positions your company for success as natural resources grow scarcer, governmental regulations change, and customers and employees expect greater environmental stewardship and social responsibility.
  3. Give examples of competitors that are already undertaking sustainability initiatives.  Show them how industry leaders, such as Xerox, see value in balancing the economic, social and environmental aspects of their operations.

Sustainability: Creating Value Today AND Tomorrow

Sustainability allows you to make money today without destroying the resources necessary for tomorrow’s prosperity.  Creating stakeholder value without draining natural resources doesn’t just sound nice; it makes good economic sense.  It is very important to continue to try and educate your employees, coworkers and company management that it is all about creating enduring value, today.

Once your office sees the link between sustainability and creating value, the concept will sell itself.  Take advantage of resources like our blog posts here at BusinessEarth to learn how responsibility is a profitable strategy.  The business case for sustainability is here, now; the days of it happening “eventually” are over.  Become a champion for sustainability inside of your company today.  Your business, your customers, and your community will thank you.