Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Evolution Of Sustainability

The growing movement toward sustainability in business offers companies a powerful lever for creating competitive advantage. The key to applying this lever successfully is action across the full range of challenges and opportunities presented by sustainability, not just the limited subset that is currently guiding most business sustainability initiatives. To understand this full range, sustainability needs to be viewed from at least six different perspectives. Integrating insights from these six perspectives can improve many of a company’s business capabilities, not just those directly associated with progress toward sustainability.

Six Perspectives on Sustainability

1. Regulatory compliance. Most companies have already mastered this perspective on sustainability within their operations. The major outstanding issue is to what extent government regulations will raise the bar for compliance in the future. Moving beyond this limited perspective allows a company to get ahead of future regulatory requirements, thus reducing the risk of regulatory disruption to its operations.

2. Incremental mitigation. This is where the bulk of attention in the business world is currently focused: impact measurement and metrics, emissions and waste reduction, recycling programs, conservation of scarce resources and energy, alternative and more benign sources of supply, greener consumer products and green image-related marketing and public relations. All that is a good start and can lead to significant cost reduction, risk mitigation and new revenue streams. See Sloan Management Review for more details..

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