A business strategy defines how a company intends to operate in its markets. As environmental awareness has grown over the recent decades, businesses of all forms are being forced to incorporate more sustainable approaches to carrying out their activities. For some, this pressure results from external and political forces, while for others, it is a matter of ethics. Sustainability will continue to exert an increasingly powerful influence as governments introduce rigorous legislation to punish environmentally damaging practices.
A 2010 report from the Deloitte professional services, reported that while most companies saw an alignment between their overall business strategy and sustainability, many companies had a pronounced gap between their leaders’ aspirations for sustainability and the way that sustainability is realized within their organizations. One CEO was quoted by environmentalleader.com as saying that “in a world where our consumption patterns outpace the planet’s ability to regenerate resources by 30 percent, businesses that figure out how to deliver enhanced value by radically reducing material inputs and engaging consumers on product use will be well-positioned for success.”
One of the easiest concessions to make to sustainability is in reducing and processing waste more efficiently. Companies that are starting up can ensure that they purchase environmentally effective machinery and equipment, while those that are already established can make changes to their existing operations. For example, the International Institute for Sustainable Development describes how a 3M manufacturing plant scaled down its wastewater treatment operations by 50 percent simply by reusing cooling water rather than discharging it after one use. Smaller companies can instigate recycling projects and move toward paperless offices.
Most companies operate some form of transportation, whether it’s moving finished products from the place of manufacture to the point of sale or employees moving themselves to and from work. The efficiency of the vehicles, their routes and the necessity of the journey all play a part in affecting their relative damage to the environment. By thinking about sustainable transport options from the outset, a company’s business strategy can make use of the latest developments in green vehicles and fuel while potentially saving a great deal of money by more closely scrutinizing the viability of all journeys. In 2006, money.cnn.com reported that Wal-Mart was increasing the efficiency of its fleet by 25%.
In business-ethics.com, Professor S. Prakash Sethi of Baruch College in New York is quoted as saying that while most companies "are good at cost-driven initiatives where there is a clear economic and public relations benefit to do it; they generally aren’t addressing the negative externalities at the user end.” With this in mind, come companies are beginning to take responsibility for acknowledging how a customer disposes of their products at the end of their useful lives. One example is the furniture designer and manufacturer Herman Miller. As part of its business strategy, it has stated its intention for 100 percent of its products to be fully recyclabe by 2020.
- Business Ethics: Sustainability: Business Strategy Trumps Reputation; Gael O'Brien; Oct. 2010
- Get Sustainable: What We Do
- IFC: Sustainability as a Business Strategy
- Environmental Leader: Executives Link Sustainability with Business Strategy; Jul. 2010
- Industry Week; Sustainable Business Strategy: More Than Social Responsibility; Rich Becks; Sep. 2009
- CNN Money: Wal-Mart Sees Green; Marc Gunther; Jul. 2006
- International Institute for Sustainable Development: Business Strategy for Sustainable Development
Justin Schamotta began writing in 2003. His articles have appeared in "New Internationalist," "Bizarre," "Windsurf Magazine," "Cadogan Travel Guides" and "Juno." He was a deputy editor at Corporate Watch and co-editor of "BULB" magazine. Schamotta has a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Plymouth University and a postgraduate diploma in journalism from Cardiff University.