The Great Recession may “officially” be over, but I personally don’t believe it. And I know several corporate leaders who wouldn’t be too surprised if the economy took a second dip; in fact, many are anticipating it. But perhaps that is the silver lining of this economic upheaval: businesses are now better prepared and more acutely aware of what it takes to survive – and sustain.
The concept of sustainability continues to evolve. There was a time when it seemed synonymous with “green” – products, services and processes – and everyone jumped on the green bandwagon just because it was the “place to be.” Fortunately, businesses today are taking a more holistic approach to sustainability. While profitability is still the prevailing bottom-line, businesses – large and small – recognize that there are two additional bottom-lines of paramount importance: people and the planet. To build a foundation of long term sustainability or business growth, all three elements are essential.
Increasingly, companies today are approaching their reporting and accountability structures according to the sustainability triple bottom-line, a phrase coined by John Elkington in 1998. It’s definitely positive progress, but to be a true champion of sustainability, companies must take action on their actions, and share information about goals, initiatives, accomplishments and best practices inside and outside of their organizations.
Communicating with and involving stakeholders as well as shareholders is a vital part of effective sustainability programs. After all, if you’re doing great things, why not talk about them? For example, be willing to use your company as its own best case study: talk about your successes – and your failures. Participate in conferences and other event platforms. These are forums where you can gather useful data and collaborate on new ideas. Partner with likeminded organizations and encourage your employees to be part of the cause.
These are just some of the valuable opportunities that will not only drive awareness for the company’s leadership, but will help to build credibility, trust and loyalty for your brand – and ultimately, generate the momentum needed to help ensure long-term sustainability for the business, its people and the environment.
By Jennifer Zottola, Vice President, Stern + Associates