What's the importance of sustainability in business?
"Sustainability" is a bit of a buzz word, but it's a lot more than that, it's an imperative. But what's the importance of sustainability in business?
Let's take a moment to look at some of the benefits of sustainability in business, reflecting on some of the past guest interviews and articles on this site.
The benefits of sustainability in business
There have been numerous studies looking at how business that focus on doing good can improve their bottom line.
Way back in 2014 the London Business School published a report looking at the benefits of corporate social responsibility in a report titled Doing well by doing good. In this report they surmised that whilst there can be tangible, commercial benefits of CSR, business can perhaps also derive value from social responsible business practices by making sure they talk about what they are doing and why.
There is no point doing great CSR work and being modest about it – tell everyone.
Companies expect increased sales from sustainability
An HSBC report showed that of 10,000 businesses surveyed, 78% expect to see sales grow within the year, as a result of focus on sustainability.
More companies focus on sustainability
BusinessWire indicates an 81% increase in companies focused on sustainability
Reporting on sustainability is the norm
Accountants KPMG show that more than 80% of companies report on sustainability, worldwide. However, alignment to the UN SDGs comes in lower at around 70%, but is often "unbalanced and disconnected" from the business goals.
ESG, Sustainability and CSR
Today, though, CSR seems a little old fashioned and has been replaced by terms such as ESG (environmental, social and governance) and sustainability.
Since the London Business School report, there have been several other reports on the benefits of sustainability for businesses, even under the same title. In 2019 Mastercard produced a report looking at building a more inclusive and sustainable digital economy. In this report they looked at the importance of sustainability in their business to reach previously unreachable markets, and in doing so empowering those with new opportunities.
Mastercard pledged almost $100 million to help digitally empower 1 billion people, including 50 million small businesses, and 25 million female entrepreneurs.
Triple Bottom Line - People Planet Prosperity (aka Profit)
In an effort to tie sustainability and social responsibility to profit, the concept of a triple bottom line was developed, aligning profit with genuine consideration to the impact on people and the planet. The University of Wisconsin published a short explainer of this here.
In previous roles I experienced the good, bad and the ugly of CSR programmes, but mostly the impression they left me with was one of "lip service". So during my interviews, I've been trying to ask leaders of CSR, Tech For Good and ESG how these topics are related or how they differ.
The video interview with BT's Head of Tech For Good below is a great example of this. Ian talks about how the importance of sustainability for a business goes from the top down, and bottom up. This was something that was very difficult to achieve in previous times.
A Talent Magnet
One of the things I think makes ESG different to CSR, and why sustainability is important for businesses of today and the future, is that graduates, new hires and job hunters are beginning to ask ESG and sustainability related questions about their future employers.
In this interview I speak with Francesco who helps companies build cultures that people want to be part of, and sustainability, ethics and doing good are big parts of this.
SDGs and Business
I am often asked why I chose to orient this website around the UN SDGs. It's a question I answer in this article. In summary, I believe that the SDGs provide a common vocabulary, and helps us align our activities against really challenging and important global goals.
The challenge for businesses trying to talk about doing good.
As mentioned at the top of this article, companies that are doing good shouldn't be afraid of talking about the good work they are doing. But there is a fine line that needs to be trodden.
Examples of boastful, disingenuous claims of sustainability, doing good and social impact are aplenty and the terms 'greenwashing' or even 'purpose washing' are now common phrases, and reasons many companies think twice about talking about the good they do.
It needn't be this way.
A platform to elevate purposeful technologies, business and leaders
This website provides a platform for leaders to talk about the powerful ways they are using technology to address one or more of the united nations sustainable development goals.
As independents, we are careful who we feature and who we work with, but we don't focus solely on the solo climate warriors using the latest technology wizardry. In fact, we know there are companies out there making huge differences using even the most rudimentary technologies, like SMS and USSD codes. We know that not all big companies are twisting and manipulating "the message".
Simply put, we aim to do good for this planet by providing a platform that talks about the importance of sustainability in business through the stories of purpose driven leaders, delivering positive changes with integrity.
To find out how we can help you tell your story, visit this page.
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