Nov 05, 2021

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Developing a Plan of Action for Business Sustainability

The journey to meaningful change in business is finally gaining traction. One of its sustainability pioneers is Philippe Joubert, Executive Chairman of the Global Electricity Initiative, and Guest Lecturer on the University of Cambridge Business Sustainability Management online short course.

In an exclusive video for the course he discusses the death of business as usual: too many companies are not paying for the services rendered to us by nature. Taking advantage of conveniences daily, and without a second thought, will have a cost that can no longer be ignored. Earthly resources are finite.

From work to home, to the food you eat – the comforts of daily routines rely on the availability of natural resources like air, water, and land.

Driving meaningful change in business

Businesses simply can’t afford to put off change anymore. Sustainability has reached critical mass, with world summits and economic forums monitoring issues of resource scarcity and high-risk environmental factors affecting world populations.

There’s no reason for companies to be reluctant, sustainability makes business sense. Alongside the financial pressures of climate change, the consumer has more power than ever and is becoming a driving force of change for sustainable business practices.

“New risks are coming. Now you have to ask your business, are you really resilient? Is your supply chain resilient? On the other hand, you also have plenty of opportunities. [Take] the example of power. [There] is a tremendous shift from coal and fossil fuel energy to new renewable energy.”

Philippe Joubert, Executive Chairman of the Global Electricity Initiative

Innovation improves human lives

Innovation in sustainability requires a change in the mode of thinking in that businesses merely offer products and services in economic terms, to companies that also demonstrate social value. Limited resources increasingly force business to demonstrate their ability to operate responsibly, ensuring that they are to account for the common good. Organizations are expected and held to a higher ideal of resource conservation, because of the magnitude of their actions and its effects. The old status quo of doing business has changed irrevocably.

This is a hard-hitting truth for many businesses today, which may not understand the need for this ideology, but statistics on the earth’s ‘ecological deficit’ portrays a clear picture.

The Global Footprint Network estimated that the global population consumed the equivalent of 1.73 Earth’s worth of resources in 2017 alone. 1

Building a sustainable economy

Despite its drain on resources, you would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t like the convenience that technology brings. But how can this translate into a business case for sustainability?

Companies are increasingly realizing that the cost and social challenges of doing business are inextricably linked. This isn’t an ephemeral concept – cost metrics are driving businesses to care about environmental factors, especially when the volatility of natural resources is at stake. Corporate social responsibility is therefore performed not out of legal obligation, but as a necessity.

The reality is that, as organizations become more comfortable with the concepts and language of sustainability, nearly all of these terms have become common business discourse:

  • Renewable energy
  • Climate change
  • Carbon footprint
  • Resource scarcity
  • Urbanization
  • Deforestation
  • Reuse, repurpose, or recycle

Developing a plan of action

As organizations begin to recognize the necessities of sustainability, they are learning to redefine business risk, to the point where the financial implications of a profitable business rest on a “triple bottom line of: profit, people, and the planet.”2 In essence, a company that fully accounts for financial, social, and environmental factors truly understands the costs of doing business. Environmental risks have become powerful metrics for business practices and performance.

However, and despite its benefits, sustainability can’t be forcibly grafted to existing business strategies. Incorporating it in such a way that the organization is able to realize its potential requires a level of skill and awareness. It requires an investment in sustainability training and education.

Become future-fit by learning about sustainability and discovering innovative methodologies for driving meaningful change from Philippe Joubert, amongst other industry pioneers, on the University of Cambridge Business Sustainability Management online short course.