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: Food and Water

Food and water, along with energy, comprise a resource nexus that will impact sustainable business strategies for all firms, given their central role in the economy.

Feeding the future world when water is constrained will be a daunting challenge . Food production will need to increase by 70% by 2050 in order to feed the projected global population of 9 billion.  Extreme weather will exacerbate the production of food and increase food prices disproportionately affecting developing countries where 70% of the household budget goes to food (the US figure is 13%).  Rising food prices have pushed 44 million people into poverty globally just in the past two years.  One tragedy is that smallholder farmers comprise 50% of the undernourished, even as they grow food themselves. Unfortunately, the prices of staple foods could double by 2030.

Business Strategies: Sustainability Megatrends

As sustainable business strategies get revised for 2013, it is time to take an informed look at the sustainability megatrends highlighted in 2012.

The clear message of 2012 is that sustainability mega forces are accelerating in strength, which makes it a corporate strategy challenge and opportunity. One of the best reports on these megatrends describes a world in 2030 that is radically different from today: greater individual empowerment, shift in power to a multipolar world, much greater urbanization and migrations, and a demand-supply gap for food, water and energy that creates a dangerous nexus.

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.

Sustainability Champion: Finding the Business Value

Yesterday, I talked about the different reactions that business functions have to sustainability and the need to get these groups on the same page. There are two key elements in a shared viewpoint that lead to business value from sustainability.

First, the shared viewpoint needs to reinforce the core strategic strength, capability, or competence of the corporation. This involves a shift from the mindset that sustainability is just for society or the environment’s sake, to one that advances the core value proposition of the company. When you start looking at sustainability through this lens of core strengths, you begin to speak the language of business. You can then tailor this language to the dialect of each distinct business group in the company and inspire every employee in the company.