As our environment is continuously challenged by the impact of carbon emissions and the arguably deleterious effects of global warming, corporations are challenged with a paradoxical scenario—how can they encourage and/or foster sustainability, while still remaining viable from a profit scenario. In reality, sustainability is more than just a goal, and in fact is a must for the planet’s well-being and future survival. As such, the question becomes not so much whether sustainability will be achieved, but instead, how it will be achieved.
One need not look much further than their own carbon footprint and what, if any, changes could be made to improve the negative impacts of same upon our environment. In calculating my own CO2 footprint, I noted that the National average is 20.4 tons of CO2 requiring offset. In my own case, despite living very sustainably in my household, my travel patterns ratchet that footprint figure up to more than 32 tons of CO2 requiring offset. I make numerous short haul flights throughout the year, many of which are professionally related and cannot really be modified. One option could be to seek overnight lodging in those instances where I fly back and forth to the same destination two or more times in a single week.
Businesses can support the carbon emission reductions and remain profitable by encouraging internal and external constituents to conserve wherever possible, and to make sustainability a distinct priority. In reality, those businesses who commit to more sustainable practices, will like experience lesser bottom line adversity or risk over the long haul. By adding sustainability to the roster of corporate and social responsibility aspirations, uncertainty can be reduced. After all, sustainability goes to a business’ brand value and can eventually help to bring monetary or bottom line profit or value as a result of fostering sustainable behavior.
There is no shortage of consumer opportunities in support of sustainability. From auto manufacturers, to utility companies, to suppliers of household goods, there are countless items that can be manufactured and sold for profit, that in turn help to reduce the overall carbon emission rate. Think of energy efficient household appliances, light bulbs, and solar electric systems. Biodiesel and electric cars, organic farm tools, and other products that will serve to lessen the depletion of our natural resources, making conservation a more preferable option.
From a business perspective, this may well be less about the low costs of production, and perhaps more about societal pressure to do the sustainable thing for the long run. Of course, the existing way of doing business from manufacturing to farming cannot possibly be transformed overnight. Longer term sustainability will come about through systemic change and a commitment to shifting core values in favor of the pursuit of a less heavy impact on our environment. It is less about sacrificing profits in favor of sustainability, and more about creating changes in the way that people consume goods and services. The goods and services can still be offered at a profit, as long as their impact and outcomes are in furtherance of longer term sustainability.
The question looms for many as to whether it pays in the long run to be “green” or whether sustainability it ultimately desirable or even feasible, where corporate shareholders also harbor profitability demands. The overall shift however, in favor of responsible corporate actions, including sustainability, is something that current and future generations will come to expect and demand, in large part to meet their own needs and goals. Anything is possible, and change is inevitable. If corporations and consumers can turn a like-minded eye towards effectuating positive change, we would all be considerably better off.
- “How To Make Sustainability Profitable” – Business Insider. (n.d.). Retrieved September 4, 2016, from http://www.businessinsider.com
- “Sustainability Moves into the Mainstream as Profits with Principle and Less Risk” (n.d.). Retrieved September 04, 2016, from http://www.forbes.com