Sustainable Business Strategies: Investors

Investors are one of the biggest, “below the radar”, drivers of sustainable business for the future, and are making slow and steady progress in sustainable and responsible investments.

The lessons for corporate sustainability champions are:

  1. While it may not seem that investors care about sustainability, their interest is steadily growing and will become very visible in a few years.
  2. The cost savings for companies from sustainability and rising expectations of limited partners are driving the interest in these investments.
  3. This trend will accelerate when the metrics for monitoring investments improve, which seems to be taking place now.  Nearly half of all shareholder resolutions typically have to do with sustainability.

Sustainable Business Strategies: Risk Management

2012 was the year in which risk management strategies to cope with sustainability mega forces became more sophisticated.

risk management

The lessons for corporate sustainability champions are:

  • Risk management for climate change and other environmental threats must become part of enterprise risk management.  If it isn’t, then you’re really in the minority.
    You need to make it a priority within your company.
  • Focus on business resilience, not just to extreme weather events that disrupt supply chains and operations, but also to the threat of resource constraints.

Sustainable Business Strategies: Natural Capital

Natural Capital2012 was the year in which natural capital (also called biodiversity and ecosystems services) began to get on business’ radar. This is a theme that has real staying power.  

Advice for the Corporate Sustainability Champion:

  •  Stay up-to-date with this important, rapidly developing area of sustainability. It appeals to business executives because it is easier to grasp conceptually.
  • Show why natural capital matters to your company. The way to do so is through a pilot evaluation of its materiality to business.
  • Join the coalitions that are beginning to form in this area, such as the TEEB for Business Coalition and the EP&L Consortium.

Corporate SoS: Business and Climate Change Impacts

Business risks from climate change impacts are getting more recognition, as risk analysis gets better and impacts of natural disasters show up larger on the business radar.

2013 will be the year in which the business risks of climate change impacts get understood much more clearly. This is a CEO-level issue because it affects corporate strategy and performance.

As a result, I expect widespread incorporation of risk management strategies for climate change into enterprise-level strategic planning, at least among the Global 500 corporations.

Corporate SoS: Integrated Reporting & Standards

Integrated reporting and sustainability standards landed on the corporate radar of global sustainability leaders in 2012.

The goal of integrated reporting is a more accurate and complete picture of the company’s performance, governance and strategy, and its future prospects.

To achieve this goal, integrated reporting tries to pull together financial information about the commercial, social and environmental context of the company in the same report.

The big problem with current reporting is that this information tends to be scattered across financial disclosures and corporate sustainability reports. Even if found together, the social and environmental aspects are not monetized.

Corporate SOS: Business Value of Sustainability

In 2012, there was a sea change in the evidence for sustainability’s business value, especially when it comes to the market value of the company.

Key Sea Change Takeaway: Sustainable companies perform better than other companies over the long-term. This is true whether you measure stock market or traditional P&L performance.

Clearly, the business case for a particular sustainability project depends very much on the project and the company. In particular, it’s easier to quantify the business value for many efficiency or waste reduction projects.

Accelerating Sustainability in Business

Call me optimistic, but the sea change in corporate sustainability seems to be gaining momentum.

Hurricane Sandy is the prime example of an event that drew attention to the perils of climate change.
But there are other, less obvious events of 2012 that are driving this sea change.

The Rio+20 conference in June this year, despite its modest achievements at the government level, had many important developments. For the first time, it became obvious that the real driver of a more sustainable world is going to be business. The spotlight is now on corporations to drive the sea change, which is great for business.