What is the business case for sustainability?
For many employees working in the environmental sector, it clearly pays to know this. Over and above demonstrating technical expertise, environmental professionals often need to connect their clients, colleagues and management to the bigger picture and effectively articulate why sustainability is important.
This process of raising environmental awareness involves not just informing others of the serious risks associated with continued environmental degradation and resource depletion, but also the tremendous opportunities available to the businesses that choose to act proactively.
Recently, several major reports have added additional evidence to the mounting case for sustainability. Based on the key insights from these studies, businesses stand to gain a lot in the adoption of sustainable practices by:
1. Creating new sources of revenue
As a shift towards sustainability continues to transform the business landscape, new markets and industries are cropping up, with corresponding opportunities to generate revenue. For instance, in the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) 's recent report of Canadian companies, CDP Canada 200 Report 2011: Realizing Opportunities from Effective Corporate Management of Climate Change, 54% of respondents had seized new opportunities in greenhouse reduction activities by offering products or services to assist third parties in reducing their own GHG emissions.
2. Mitigating costs
Proactively addressing sustainability issues is also a means for organizations to avoid the devastating costs related to the effects of environmental degradation, including climate change. In NRTEE’s compelling report, Paying the Price: The Economic Impacts of Climate Change for Canada, climate change carries serious economic consequences, with an estimated cost ranging from $5 billion per year by 2020 to an average value between $21 billion and $43 billion per year by 2050. Such a dismal prospect is increasing the pressure on businesses to make the necessary shift to sustainability sooner rather than later.
3. Remaining competitive
Based on CDP’s report, a growing number of businesses are incorporating environmental considerations into their business planning, as well. The study found that 75% of respondents had made a commitment to long-term, sustainable growth by integrating climate change into their overall business strategy. With more companies choosing to make sustainability a priority, adopting environmental practices will become a necessity for businesses looking to maintain their brand value and remain competitive.
4. Creating major savings
One particularly compelling reason for sustainability is simply the huge cost savings involved in reduced resource consumption and increased energy efficiency. According to CDP’s study, 91 out of the 108 responding businesses reported a total of 425 emission reduction activities, which were expected to deliver an annual savings of approximately $27 million, or a payback period of 2 to 3 years on their original investment.