A recent survey has suggested that while 96% of FTSE100 companies see sustainability as essential to their business, the number drops to 56% when it comes to Small & Medium Sized Enterprises. Both figures came of something of a shock to me - impressed with the FTSE100 results and depressed by the SMEs.
In my experience many SMEs compete for work in a B2B environment where the big corporations and the public sector are pushing sustainability down into their supply chains. So the SMEs have more to lose as the buyers generally have a choice.
Mulling on this lead me to another question: who is better placed to embrace sustainability? Here's a simple comparison:
Capital investment is easier come by;
Resources can be brought to bear on issues with little impact on the rest of the organisation.
Buying power gives corporations the opportunity to build the supply chain and/or technology they want/need.
Lobbying power can help get things done in the wider business/political eco-system.
Visibility - assessments can be done very quickly and large impacts are usually obvious.
Agility - change can be implemented very quickly due to the size of the organisation, its smaller asset lists and short reporting chains.
Responsiveness - a small change can have a large impact - e.g. upgrading the sole boiler in the company.
Innovation - new ideas are less likely to get lost in internal politics and committees, but can tried, assessed and dropped if necessary.
I have particular scorn for those who assume SMEs struggle with sustainability - many of my favourite case studies feature forward thinking SMEs. Whether a business is big or small, fundamentally it comes down to the mentality of its leadership.
Whether I'm working with the board members of a FTSE100 company or be-overalled shop floor operatives, I usually start my workshops by asking why the business should be interested in sustainability? I then shut up and wait, flip chart marker in hand, for the first answer.
'Saving money' is usually up first, followed by 'legislation', 'customer demand' and 'keeping employees happy' in roughly that order. But my killer question is then "which is the most important?"
Getting the answer to that one right is essential to building a sustainability strategy. And the correct answer for most companies is 'customer demand' (or brand enhancement or marketplace differentiation) as companies who follow this approach tend to benefit from being more competitive and keeping employees happy and saving costs and avoiding compliance problems. Exclusively pursuing cost savings won't do much for the brand which in turn won't win you any new business or give your employees a warm feeling.
It is extremely important to get a crystal clear understanding of your specific business case for sustainability communicated to all your influential executives. If it is not nailed down, then, particularly in these straightened times, the cost cutting imperative will rise and the strategy will be degraded to a tactical plan that won't deliver the real benefits of being a more sustainable business. Vagueness is lethal to your strategy.
I made the short presentation on the business case for sustainability above two and half years ago and it is the most popular on the Terra Infirma YouTube channel by a country mile. If I was recording it now I would sneak a few more nuances in, but the core message remains the same - "Go Green Save Money is for Amateurs."
I'm increasingly educating myself more about organisational development than sustainability per se because I believe very strongly that implementation is much more important than theorising.
So one of my New Year's Resolutions this year is to read more of the late Peter Drucker as he is regarded as the management gurus' guru and there was a Drucker-sized gap on my bookshelf. So I bought 'The Essential Drucker' as a jumping off point as this is a Greatest Hits selection of chapters from his other books from 1942 to 1999.
You would have thought that a 1974 chapter on Purpose and Objectives of a Business would have little relevance to a sustainability change agent in 2013, but Drucker puts social responsibility on a par with marketing, innovation and resources:
Lessons we have learned from the rise of consumerism, or from the attacks on industry for the destruction of the environment, are expensive ways for us to realize that business needs to think through its impacts and its responsibilities for both.
He goes on:
That [social responsibility] objectives need to be built into the strategy of a business, rather than merely be statements of good intentions, needs to stressed here. These are objectives that are needed not because the manager has a responsibility to society. They are needed because the manager has a responsibility to the enterprise.
This 38 year old statement, given Drucker's influence, begs the question why on earth are mainstream companies only now starting to embed social and environmental objectives into their core business strategy? When I wrote The Green Executive, I thought this was cutting edge thinking, but it appears that it's almost 40 years old!
I spent yesterday running a sustainability strategy workshop for directors and senior managers of a FTSE100 company. They didn't disappoint - they challenged, they argued, they what-if'd, they demanded evidence and data - everything you would expect from the calibre of people running such a large, complex enterprise. They certainly made me work for my money.
I've learnt through experience to be quite flexible with the programme of my workshops, but despite having given a significant amount of additional time early on to debate the business case for sustainability, it was the subject we kept coming back to, still dominating the discussion during the wash-up at the end.
This doesn't surprise me as I don't think most organisations truly pin down the business case as it applies to them. Many of us can recite the list - compliance, reduced costs, recruitment and retention of employees, attracting and retaining customers, new business opportunities along with less obvious examples like resource security and asset value protection - but how do they relate? This is vitally important when you have to, say, decide when should you spend to save and when should you spend to invest in the brand?
Interestingly, those who invest in the brand often deliver cost savings, but those who require a return on investment rarely get the brand enhancement. When Sir Stuart Rose put £200m into Marks & Spencer's Plan A, he did it to protect the venerable chain store's reputation as the trusted brand on the British high street and didn't expect to see that money again. But Plan A has returned the investment and indeed made a profit. Conversely, every business worth its salt is trying to drive down energy, water and waste costs, but few if any of them will get the halo that Plan A gives M&S.
But the important thing is that Rose knew precisely what his business priority was - the brand. Pinning down the business case in that way gave him and the Plan A team the clarity and direction to develop and deliver a highly effective sustainability strategy. And that's why taking so much time in my workshop to explore the business case was essential to take the programme forward.
I've pretty much given up paying attention to "contrarian" anti-environmental bloggers - the purveyors of zombie myths that just won't die - but it came to my attention that James Delingpole of the Telegraph has recently labelled my profession "leeches on the productive sector." Given that Mr Delingpole earns a living from winding people like me up, I really shouldn't rise to the bait. But, hey, it's a Friday...
Let's have a look at the sustainability consultancy profession. Like all business consultants, we operate in the marketplace. We have to offer something to our clients which is of value to them above and beyond the price we charge for it. If we fail to do that we go bust - simple free market economics of the kind that Mr Delingpole claims to be a fan. And to insult our profession is to insult our clientele - Delingpole's "productive sector" - as that's where the demand comes from.
Mr Delingpole would presumably disagree with the pressing business case for sustainability - that by going green you can win more business, protect your brand, attract and retain staff more easily, cut costs and avoid current and future risks. But, as with his views on climate change and renewable energy, he is proved wrong by any objective look at the facts - to take one recent example, this 2012 Harvard Business School study which concludes "sustainability-focused companies outperform their peers."
Sustainability consultants help their clients unlock this competitive advantage and charge commensurate fees in return. But, hey, let's not let evidence, scholarship and market forces get in the way of histrionic polemics.
Far be it for me to cast aspersions back, but which profession delivers more for the economy and society? One that helps businesses thrive within the limits of the natural environment, or a job which appears to consist of copying and pasting unscientific nonsense off the web, adding some snark at the top and bottom, and presenting yourself as some kind of expert? Over to you, Mr Delingpole...
Occasionally I get invited to respond to an on-line query or comment and I always do my best to do so in a open minded and helpful way. I responded to one such request recently from UK Business Labs and the following comment appeared:
"And I have seen so many companies saying they are green but when you look at what they are doing (recycling plastic for example) they only do it to reduce their costs.... Not to save the planet!"
This is an intriguing point of view. My initial response was that this is a false OR - money or planet. There is nothing wrong with improving your environmental performance in a way that benefits your business - money AND planet - in fact it is the best way to do it.
But it betrays a deeper distrust of the motivations of businesses wishing to go green. When I interviewed Richard Gillies of Marks & Spencer about the retail giant's Plan A sustainability programme for The Green Executive, he told me that they were coy about how much in the way of savings they had made from Plan A. They weren't expected to make any return on the initial £200m when the programme was set up and were pleasantly surprised when it paid for itself and provided a surplus.
So the question is, how do you deal with this paradox? The short answer is brutal honesty: "we are doing this because it is the right thing to do AND it is good for our business - we find that one follows the other." Of course hardened cynics will remain cynical, but I learnt a long time ago not to worry about hardened cynics.
Another day, another study that shows that green businesses have more productive/happier employees, this time from UCLA:
"Adopting green practices isn't just good for the environment, it's good for your employees and it's good for your bottom line. Employees in such green firms are more motivated, receive more training, and benefit from better interpersonal relationships. The employees at green companies are therefore more productive than employees in more conventional firms."
This adds to wealth of research that shows greener businesses have better staff retention rates, give shareholders better returns, do better in a recession etc, etc. A green business is a better business.
But this always gets me thinking - what's the cause and what's the effect? Does being green deliver these results, or is it that the kind of progressive, values-led business that does well will be more likely to take environmental issues seriously? It is almost impossible to isolate the two factors in these studies.
I have come to the conclusion that, rather than one "coming first" as in old chicken and egg cliché, the two are part of a virtuous circle - a better business is likely to take green seriously which delivers business benefits which make the business even better and even more convinced of the need to be values led which in turn makes them more committed to environmental improvements. Which "came first" is often lost in the mists of time.
It's actually to solve the old 'chicken and egg' conundrum itself - any student of evolution will tell you the egg came first.
I was sat in the foyer cafe of one of the most impressive corporate headquarters I have ever visited, formalising a business relationship with the company's Head of Sustainability. In the cavernous main foyer space groups of surprisingly young sharp suited men and women were being politely ushered between presentations on different aspects of the company's operations given by its top executives.
"It's investor day." explained my companion looking over at the suits, "This is one of the reasons we need to up our game - to keep these guys happy."
When I was writing The Green Executive two years ago, I considered including investor pressure in the business case for sustainability, but ultimately omitted it as none of the executives I interviewed for the book cited it as a driver. When I asked the question, I got equivocal answers. But times change, so is investor pressure now a compelling reason to take sustainability seriously?
In my keynote speech at the Energy & Environment North East 2012 conference, I argued that the question was not low carbon or growth, but low carbon or stagnation. Now the CBI has released a report arguing exactly the same thing:
With a technical double-dip recession now a reality and private sector growth at the top of the agenda, some are questioning whether there is still room for ‘going green’. The business response is definitive and emphatic: green is not just complementary to growth, but a vital driver of it [my emphasis].
In trying economic times, the UK’s green business has continued to grow in real terms, carving out a £122 billion share of a global market worth £3.3 trillion and employing close to a million people. And in 2014/15, it is expected to roughly halve the UK’s trade deficit.
Stirring stuff. But also a vital reminder of the importance of framing arguments when it comes to making the case for sustainability. Too many politicians, media commentators and business leaders have a default view that 'green' is a luxury, expensive and/or a communist plot at the best of times, never mind during "the current economic situation." The statistics are showing us is that green growth is the only way forward, but many choose to ignore them.
This arises because we all perceive the rest of the world through a 'frame' which blocks out most of the picture and allows us to isolate the things or issues we perceive to be important. We have to do this or we would simply be overwhelmed with information, but the downside is that what we see through the frame may not represent the bigger picture. Before coming to an important decision, it is always worth questioning our default frame and maybe trying a different frame to see if it makes a difference - testing our assumptions in other words.
The 'reframing' process is extremely important at an organisational level too. "If it's a choice between profit or the environment, my boss always chooses profit." someone complained to me recently. That's an argument they are very unlikely to win unless they can reframe the argument to "environment and profit." Getting someone to change their default frame is not straightforward, but there are a number of options:
The opinions of someone the person trusts - the CBI report is very powerful because that group is anything but a group of lefty beardy tree huggers. I often quote the International Energy Agency for exactly the same reason;
Use questions - questions are disarming and get people thinking. I start my workshops by asking "Why should we take sustainability seriously?" which encourages delegates to make the case to themselves;
Frame presentations and arguments carefully - if I started my workshops with "Should we take sustainability seriously?" then that is quite a different frame and puts the onus on me to argue 'yes'.
Chesterton said "Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame." It is also the most important part of any argument, so choose your frame carefully.
I gave two keynote speeches this week: one at The Value of Sustainability organised by Newcastle University Business School and TADEA, the other at the Energy & Environment North East 2012 conference. Events like these are great for producing debate and stimulating thinking, so I thought I'd share.
For the former event I was on familiar ground on corporate sustainability, concluding the following:
“Go Green Save Money is for Amateurs” - it is now a matter of competitive advantage;
Sustainability is going mainstream - into products, processes and cultures;
Litmus test is: what are you going to stop doing?
Stretch yourself and think different;
Ultimately about leadership rather than management.
During one the other sessions, I challenged the idea of 'sustainability champions' - asking what do you expect these guys to do and how do you expect them to do it? No-one had a clear answer, which reinforced my belief that the "champions" approach is usually taken up because other people do it, rather than having a clear role in mind.
At the EENE 2012 conference, I was covering the political slot after a local MP had pulled out. This gave me a chance to pontificate freely on "The World According to Gareth" and, in particular:
We appear to be in the oil/fossil fuel endgame - not a matter of "low carbon or growth" as the Treasury may think so much as "low carbon or stagnation";
The democratisation of energy production with renewables means we are entering the brave new world of Energy 2.0 - much in the way Web 2.0 revolutionised the internet;
Energy 2.0 presents us with a range of challenges which translate into business opportunities;
Green sector businesses are not charities: they must deal with uncertainties and must not become subsidy junkies;
Top politicians (ie Prime Ministers) need to show more leadership (I had some fun with the fact that the only UK PM to make a big green speech was Margaret Thatcher).
Given that I was talking to an audience from the environmental sector, the most controversial phrase I put in the speech was "subsidy junkies." I strongly believe that thinking that you are due public subsidy because you are 'doing good' leads to what I might euphemistically describe as less than robust business planning. Subsidies should only be used to ease the way over the initial barriers to mature markets, rather than being used as a life support system.
No one threw anything, no one walked out. Only one person challenged me on this in a later talk, arguing that subsidies represented the internalisation of external costs from "brown" energy. He was in turn asked from the floor whether this shouldn't be done by altering the tax system, rather than by direct handout. He thought no, I would say emphatically yes.
My favourite case study of the year so far was presented just before my slot. To get ready for the Olympics, the canoe slalom at the Tees Barrage needed to be upgraded with pumps so the flow could be kept artificially high if the river flow dropped. The civil engineers, Patrick Parsons, turned this problem into an opportunity. By installing four two-way archimedes screws, the barrage could generate energy when the river's flow exceeded what was required, then switch and pump water back upstream when that flow fell below the minimum to give it a boost. Overall the system would export a net of 100,000 kWh of clean hydro energy a year and extend the operating hours of the course, facilitating the Olympics and improving its long-term financial performance. Superb.
You may have seen or heard about our Green Academy on-line training sessions and wondered if it would work for you. Well here's an opportunity to experience Green Academy offline by following the recording of yesterday's "Go Green or Go Bust: An Introduction to Green Business" webinar.
The session covers the business case for sustainability, defining sustainability, business & sustainability, inspiring case studies, and potential pitfalls. You can access the recording using this link.
To get the full experience, you should download and print out the workbook which allows you to apply the learning to your organisation. You can get it using this link: Green Academy intro workbook.
On Wednesday this week I launched my sustainability mastermind group with an inaugural meeting at the Baltic Art Gallery. We booked a third floor meeting room with stupendous views along the Tyne (see above) and worked through to lunch which we took in the sixth floor restaurant - this was delicious and accompanied by even better views!
The concept behind the mastermind group is to bring together a small group of sustainability practitioners from some of the country's largest organisations to explore sustainability in depth and share experiences and insights. We were operating under Chatham House rules so I'm not going to reveal who exactly was at the event, but here are a few of the key 'take homes' which arose from our discussions:
Need to reframe the argument from "environment or profit" to "environment and profit".
There is a need to focus on intent rather than process. The intention of, say, implementing ISO14001 is to improve environmental performance, not simply to achieve and maintain certification.
Likewise with targets, you need to focus on the purpose of the target, not simply meeting it.
If your business and sustainability targets are intertwined, why bother trying to separate them?
The political policy framework will always be uncertain, so you need to accept that fact and work with it. After all, we accept and manage the inherent uncertainty in markets.
If you have stretch target and you think you are never going to meet it, don't dilute it, redouble your efforts - that's where innovation can kick in.
On the other hand if you are meeting a target easily you should raise the bar, not sit on your laurels.
It is important to nurture personal passion for sustainability and not frustrate it.
Middle management is where green projects go to die. The answer is to work with HR to embed sustainability into job descriptions, personal targets, appraisals and personal development.
When delivering workshops, I normally adhere strictly to my timetable, but this time I took a "while the discussion is generating more nuggets of value, I'm not going to curtail it" approach. There were so many of those nuggets, we only got through half of the exercises I had planned out. For once I saw this as a sign of success.
I'm really looking forward to the next one!
If you are interested in the mastermind group and you are a senior practitioner within a large and/or asset-intensive business, then please drop me a line for more details. Places are limited.
Since the Arab Spring last year, it seems that appending 'Spring' to any popular movement has already become a cliche - the "-gate" of the modern day. But my ears pricked up at the mention of the 'Shareholder Spring' this year where a number of big businesses are being given a firm clip around the ear by the people that own them - their shareholders.
When Business Secretary Vince Cable announced last year that one of his efforts to contain excessive executive pay was to give more power to shareholders, I must admit I was sceptical. Yes a few individual shareholders may protest, but the big institutional shareholders who have to find enough money to pay our pensions tend not to rock the boat. But now there have been shareholder revolts at Aviva, Barclays, AstraZeneca, Trinity Mirror and several others - and chief executive heads have rolled. Cable is keen to legislate for more power to the shareholder elbow and is being urged on by his opposite number Chuka Umunna, suggesting momentum will continue.
The big focus of the Shareholder Spring is excessive executive pay - in particular rewards for poor or mediocre performance. The fast expanding ratio of executive to average pay is one of the scandals of recent times - and it clearly contributes to inequalities in society. But with wider corporate social responsibility (CSR) becoming a key source of competitive advantage, when will shareholders start looking at the whole range of green and ethical risks?
And will those investors start seeing their investments as opportunities to demonstrate their own CSR? Currently you can invest in green and ethical funds (which often outperform the mainstream), but in the same way as 'green' is being integrated into mainstream consumer products like P&G's Ariel Excel Gel, will CSR be integrated into mainstream investment policies? The environmental pressure groups certainly think this is a key arm to twist - for example targeting the part nationalised RBS last year for its investments in tar sands. The leverage of shareholders is massive - probably bigger than any other stakeholder including customers - so this is a huge opportunity to drive positive change.
For me, it looks like I may have to update the business model in The Green Executive to include shareholders. I did consider including them at the time, but as none of my corporate clients, or indeed the executives I interviewed for the book listed them as a driver, I left them out. The way things are going, I might have to insert them in the second edition. Things move fast in this business!
I'm a big fan of The Apprentice - both for entertainment and, controversially, the business angle. I know it is fashionable to say that two teams of preening egotists rushing around backstabbing each other and making bad snap decisions has nothing to do with business, but I think the tasks are genuinely difficult - I wouldn't like to try to formulate, market and sell a new product from scratch in two days. Anyway, as fellow fans will know, the climax of each episode is the showdown in the boardroom, where barrow boy made business mogul Lord Sugar and his two sidekicks take apart the teams' efforts, cut through the flannel and make them face up to brutal reality.
Selling sustainability in the boardroom can be an equally daunting experience - and that comes from someone who has sat on both sides of the big table. You need to have your facts straight, your business case worked out and the risks of inaction and action thoroughly assessed. But unlike the bull in a china shop approach the Apprentice candidates tend to take, I have found that a more subtle approach can pay dividends. The first time I ever engaged a client at boardroom level, I put the Sustainability Maturity Model (below) up on a screen and asked the board members where they thought they were on it. The result was extraordinary - they all assumed they should be as far to the right of the model without me trying to persuade them that they should be there.
This more subtle approach is part of what I call "Green Jujitsu" which is all about bringing people with you rather than trying to bulldoze past them. Another tool in the Green Jujitsu box is the killer question, such as "what risk do rising oil prices pose?". Using such engaging techniques and avoiding bluster might have saved a few Apprentice candidates from the chop over the years and they certainly work in read boardrooms too.
Here's the latest in my Green Business Confidential podcast series. It's called "The Sins of Your Suppliers" - why you must take active responsibility for the environmental and ethical performance of your suppliers.
I was watching BBC's Daily Politics on Monday to catch the latest on the RBS bonus affair that I had just blogged on, and, lo, there was an item on responsible capitalism. They focussed on B&Q, an excellent example of responsible business, but fell into the old trap of thinking the scope of corporate social responsibility begins and ends with supporting the local community. But then, in the interests of balance, up popped a chap from the Adam Smith Institute to declare that CSR was "a tax on the consumer."
Count to ten.
This is the economics of Milton Friedman - that the only responsibility of an business is to maximise profits for shareholders. Well, we're still living with the consequences of that sort of thinking - the sub prime bubble, Ponzi-style financial "products", bank crashes, debt crises, the age of austerity etc, etc. Throughout history, unrestrained markets - in this case financial markets - have bubbled and burst with painful consequences - not least to the shareholders that Friedman claims should be put first, second and last. Left to itself, Adam Smith's famous invisible hand sometimes punches us in the face.
Let's face facts. Business operates in society, society exists in the environment. To state the bleedin' obvious, businesses - and therefore the supply side of the economy - are made up of people. The demand side of the economy is made up of people. Business is a social issue, people delivering value to people in return for financial reward. You can't get away from that.
And even from a narrowly financial point of view, CSR is good business. Marks & Spencer has made a tidy profit on Plan A, doing the "heavy lifting" on environmental and social issues on behalf of their customers who clearly see that as added value rather than an added cost. B&Q is the fourth largest home improvement chain in the world, so their environmental and social projects have hardly held them back. Procter & Gamble is the highest ranked consumer goods company on the Forbes Global 2000 list, yet they give away their water purification product for free to people in developing countries.
As a consumer I buy from all three because of that added value. And would you rather have shares in a responsible, successful business like these as opposed to worthless shares in an irresponsibly crashed bank?
The title of this post is tongue-in-cheek, by the way. I'm not saying the guys at the Adam Smith Institute are stupid, in fact they are possibly a little too clever to fully understand the real world around them. A little less IQ and a little more EQ (emotional intelligence) might set them in better stead.
The BusinessGreen webcast on customer behaviour went really well on Monday. The recorded version will be online soon and I'll put the link in the comments below. I'm not going to summarise the sessions in detaiul here as you will be able to watch it, but instead I'll pull out some key messages from the participants.
Sophie Flak of hotel group Accor (Sofitel, Novotel, Formule1) emphasised the need to use facts rather than following the crowd or to "think twice before acting" as she put it.
Carmel McQuaid of Marks & Spencer emphasised that the green message must be fully integrated into mainstream marketing. So M&S uses the same models (Danii, Twiggy et al) for their green campaigns as their normal advertising - and they sync their "clear out days" to promote the recycling of clothes with their seasonal changes in stock.
My main point was to put yourself in the customers shoes. You need to make green behaviour as frictionless as possible while adding friction to the less green behaviour - exactly the same principle to promote green behaviour within your organisation.
We got some great questions, too.
One was about the message you use. All the panellists agreed that preaching was counterproductive. I suggested that humour was a good option, such as replacing the po-faced "Consider the environment before printing this e-mail" with a wittier version like "Printing this e-mail will make Al Gore cry."
Another was along the lines of "is greening products enough or do we not need a different type of economy?" My response was that it was already happening in certain areas - music, books, movies where people were increasingly buying the service rather than the equivalent physical artefact, but that in others it was difficult as many people see a product such as a car as a sign of status - which is why many car clubs are targetting the second car rather than the first one.
The most worrying was about the 'cost downside' of doing all this. I was quite blunt and pointed out that study after study had shown that companies who took sustainability seriously were doing better in the downturn than average (acknowledging that cause and effect weren't completely clear).
After an incredibly hectic November and early December - I interacted with some 750 individuals over this time - things are finally winding down here at Terra Infirma Towers. This is the last full day of operation until the New Year.
So, here's a little reflection of the fifteen most important things I've learnt/had reaffirmed over the last 12 months:
Despite "the current economic climate", the big players are doing more on sustainability, not less;
Partially as a result, sustainability is becoming an issue of life and death for small/medium size businesses;
Expecting a direct return on investment on your environmental programmes is like driving on a motorway in second gear;
You should be 'farming' rather than 'hunting' sustainability;
There is a big shift from worrying about outputs (emissions, pollutants) to inputs (materials energy);
Learn from the Feed In Tariff hoohah - beware subsidies;
The main barrier to sustainability is only 6 inches wide - the space between your ears;
Culture change is more important than shiny new technology
Chip & Dan Heath's "Switch" model of culture change works well for sustainability;
Participation is an effective method of engagement;
To ensure sustainable change you must hunt down and eliminate perverse incentives with extreme prejudice;
If you're going to appoint sustainability champions, make sure they have a well defined role, not just vague words like "ambassador";
Questions are the most powerful weapon in the sustainability practitioner's armoury;
Responsibility must be aligned with authority and vice versa;
Sustainability must be integrated into everything, by everybody, everytime.
You read it and you hear it again and again, the same old mantra "we/you/they can't afford to go green in the current economic climate". It gets repeated so many times it becomes reality and it rarely gets challenged.
The evidence explodes this lazy myth - the latest of many studies to show green businesses out perform the rest was released by Harvard and London Business Schools shows that $1 invested in "high sustainability" companies in 1993 would earn you 47% more than if you invested it in "low sustainability" companies.
The threat from the myth is serious. Companies are losing business as contracts are awarded to greener competitors. Laggards are more susceptible to price rises in utilities and raw materials, will lose out on the best recruits and be at higher risk from legislation and green taxes. In the current economy you have to make modest progress on environmental performance just to stand still commercially, and you really have to go for it to get competitive advantage.
Some people clearly get it - my business is booming!