Sustainability for Now and the Future

by Katie Essner on March 24, 2010

By Katie Essner

Even though Americans comprise only five percent of the world’s population, they are responsible for more waste and consumption than any other country in the world. U.S. office buildings alone use approximately 19 percent of all energy consumed in the country. According to UCLA, energy use can account for more than 30 percent of a company’s operating budget while adding 20 percent to the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions.

Looking at these percentages, it is clear why companies like Coca Cola, General Electric and Kraft have started their journey toward sustainability.  While most major corporations plan their path to transparency, it is also necessary for small and medium size businesses to reevaluate their practice and design.

By becoming sustainable, a business will experience financial and economical benefits as well as stronger perceived brand value. Sustainability helps improve profitability, competitiveness and market share while taking care of the planet. This triple bottom line will create a stronger brand value for consumers and investors because people appreciate businesses that operate in the public and community interest. Investors often seek out companies that have good business practices like environmental friendliness. A sustainable business is more likely to attract their attention.

A carpet and fabric manufacturer based in Atlanta, Interface Inc., promises to eliminate any negative impact on the environment by 2020. According to an article in IABC’s Communication World, Interface found making choices based on economic, social and environmental impacts help the company strive for true sustainability.  The company’s Web site gives a detailed account of what the it is doing to achieve its vision and how Interface realized it needed to become sustainable.

Communicating with employees, stakeholders and the community about the policies, objectives, targets and outcomes of sustainability will help drive performance and keep a companies aligned with their commitment.  Monthly e-mails and newsletters written in an appealing and informative way help teach the benefits of sustainability.  Also, demonstrating how sustainable initiatives will be cost beneficial help guide the company’s overall performance.

Sustainability is a process that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Despite economic conditions, now is the best time for businesses to think about sustainability. In tough financial times, innovation is the key to advancement and those who choose a sustainable way of business now will find themselves ahead of their competitors in the future. Becoming sustainable will always be an integral part of a company’s development and early innovators will reap the benefits of this change. Sustainability will pave the road to tomorrow and the future of your business.