President Barak Obama is about to announce the final legacy program to define his administration with an ambitious expansion of environmental protection laws and regulations with details to be revealed in the closing months of his presidency. Momentum for change is on his side because of the streaming reports on the deleterious effects of pollution and non-sustainability to healthcare, water resources, crop production, and business sentient makes entrepreneurs more allies than adversaries.
The business buzz is about sustainability. Corporate officers and stakeholders are generally accepting-if not totally convinced-that being environmentally friendly does not cut profits and harm competitiveness.
Just a decade ago, business surveys found the opposite to be true. Battles raged pitting corporate executives and politicians against defiant consumer groups and environmental activists. They argued customers are not likely to pay premiums for eco-friendly products. Profits and jobs will be lost. Times are different, but simply tacking on sustainability goals and strategies is not effective. Mapping a sustainability business plan is the only way to achieve objectives.
An investigation of sustainability initiatives among 30 corporations reported in the Harvard Business Review (R. N. Nidumolu, et al., “Why Sustainability Is Now the Driver of Innovation.” September 2009, pp. 57-64) concludes, “Sustainability is the mother lode of organizational and technological innovations,” yielding significant returns throughout the company.
Costs are lower through careful planning and use of resources. Sustainability raises revenues by selling and making better products. Sustainability opens new markets and business opportunities. Sustainability is the “new frontier” of innovation observe the researchers
Determining how to build a sustainability business plan begins ensuring compliance with regulations and laws. It must be recognized as an opportunity to grow. The Big Three automakers’ resistance and delays with emission-compliance laws put them two or three design cycles behind foreign competitors.
Proactive companies move forward, reducing consumption of resources and become more efficient. A solid plan measures these effects. Plan managers learn to collaborate with suppliers and find ways throughout the chain to save on raw materials and reduce waste. They do the same with overall operations and in the workplace. Cisco turned an annual $8 million cost to scrap old equipment into a recycling group business unit that became its own profit center. Costs fell by 40%, contributing $100 million to the bottom line in 2008.
Designing sustainable goods and services is another significant ingredient to building a sustainability business plan. Procter & Gamble created cold-water washing detergents, after determining consumers switching from hot water washing save 80 billion kilowatt hours of electricity nationwide. Tide Coldwater caught on around the world, changing the washing protocols of homemakers. Clorox began making environmentally safe cleaner Green Works, eventually capturing 40% of the $200 million environmentally safe cleaning-products market.
Here are some tips for building a sustainability business plan. Start with a mission statement. Focus on the future, not the present. Examine what the company has done in the past, but goals and objectives must reflect forward thinking. Goals and objectives must address specific corporate functions: the company infrastructure, developing sustainable programs, measurable strategies, and marketing. Marketing sells the company message, builds the brand through company initiatives, and in turn, affects the corporate core values.
Create milestones and determine how they address compliance issues and reporting requirements. Establish in the plan a chain of governance and responsibility. Environmental analytics will provide measures to build on and directions to go. Start small, learn, and address scalability of plans. Learn by doing, but educate and inform everybody in the company, suppliers, and consumers along the way. Risk transparency must be the practical guide to successful collaboration. If a company has neither the staff nor expertise to build a sustainability business plan, contract with outsourcers that offer value-added team professional experience and customized creative technology. Many have global experience.
Develop new business models and platforms for future strategies. Ethics statements are crucial to building a sustainability business plan. Kraft announced in 2015 it is dumping artificial food dye from some of its best-selling products in response to consumer petitions and in the name of safety. Nestlé is removing artificial flavors from chocolate. Some dyes are made from petroleum. Artificial dyes are known to affect children’s behavior, while some food colorings contain carcinogens. They have no nutritional values.
Dr. Seuss knew the value of sustainability. He created the Lorax to deliver the message about a pristine land defiled taking leave of the place “through a hole in the smog, without leaving a trace.” Don’t be left behind or leave behind a mess our children have to clean up.