Christopher Gleadle

Sustainability and the development and deployment of strategies and policies delivering value

The evolution of sustainability

Christopher Gleadle

Throughout the great recession of 2007 – 2010, there has been a dislocation of trust between companies and the global communities they serve. Emerging from the recession – any company wanting to repair such dislocation has used sustainability as the model to achieve best results.

Whether it is customers, companies want to engage, or investors through the reduction of risk, or employees to improve team cohesion, drive innovation and attract best talent from the ascendant eco-boomers; sustainability connects all the interdependent functional areas in a more holistic manner, driving down costs – delivering on-going value through the introduction of a continuous cycle of improvement.

Companies showing a lack of understanding as to the business model and value opportunities of sustainability run the high risk of stunted growth and make the course of any economic up-turn more treacherous.

One thing for sure – global competition is rising for goods and services and the need for competitive advantage has never been greater. Leveraging sustainability has shown its way to create a winning advantage as companies and individuals are curbing consumption out of necessity.

Additionally, as highly qualified eco-boomers come to the work market from university, they are choosing whom to work for with more consideration as to the values of the employer, making sustainability a major factor in decision-making. Business is going to have to adapt to the changing requirements and needs of the workforce and its ability to attract best talent as people revise their goals, priorities and expectations as they look to make efficiencies in how and where to live and work – as, commuting is less attractive with the associated impacts of time, cost and emissions being factored.

And, whilst, sustainability embedded into the DNA of an organisation gains the economic benefits of asset, and resource optimization to stave off cramped profits; embracing sustainability as a model, buttresses trust as well as the balance sheet, enabling a company’s ability to create competitive advantage and nurse income streams with better-controlled costs.

Any company not factoring in the changes happening now and which are set to increase over the next ten years, will hobble their chances for improvement in the up turn as more energetic incomers and adapters align themselves to the rising advantages and opportunities. Essentially, laggards towards sustainability will see their value vaporize.

As we watched the recession draw blood; companies found they had issues with over capacity; forcing them to make cuts. The point here is to learn how to operate with less and enhance profitability.

For example, companies who rent their space, there is a clear growth in expectation of building function and efficiency, as green takes hold. Energy-saving sustainability features are beginning to be expected as sustainability models drive optimization through all functions and assets to help improve profitability and productivity away from the previous recession gripping nadirs. These values pervade also with property purchasing, as the leveraging of sustainability opportunities towards future value gains in an ameliorating market place, accommodate accretive buyers, working to sustainable procurement protocols.

The natural evolution of sustainability will separate the winners and losers in an emerging bifurcated market place.

Such that, it is a disappointment, SMEs still see sustainability as a non-essential. As a result, show themselves to be four times less likely to engage in sustainable behaviour than large companies – who are typically their customers. This flies in the face of mounting pressure for sustainable supply chains; this being evidenced in the 2011 Carbon Disclosure Project Supply Chain report, where the numbers of companies who are willing to de-select suppliers for not having sustainable credentials has doubled over the 2010 report.

SMEs cite resource constraints and cost, yet, the biggest cost is to do nothing. As regulation mandates demand greater disclosures of the business world; investors and customers demand more transparency as they measure the risks across value chains, so pressure continues to rise. All the time companies leave it for tomorrow; they miss the value opportunities – increasing their risks by failing to inoculate themselves against market exclusion.

Additionally, relatively short horizons and profit imperatives deter SMEs and lagging corporate leaders from engaging in sustainability strategy and developing green enhancements to their business. This dangerous practise is blinding them to the risk being built up towards business exclusion; allowing their sustainable competitors to go through the door of new business first. ‘ 70% of (sustainability) embracers say they outperform their peers’ MIT Sloan Management review and Boston Consulting Group – The Embracers Seize Advantage.

Others believe they can develop a green mirage by ticking a few boxes and communicating efforts in the vaguest terms without proof of delivery, execution and the continuous cycle of improvement. As buyers become more sophisticated in identifying ‘window dressing’, this practice of half-hearted commitment will be a danger to reputation – eroding trust and competitive advantage.

In conclusion, sustainability enhances the adage ‘ less is more’. As companies in the vanguard of sustainability become ultra-cost conscious, building efficiencies across all interdependent functional areas has become a habit – part of the DNA of operational daily life. This is not just the result of the recession, but part of the major movement of Darwinian law, reflecting a new way to do business, with a clear focus on expense levels. Sustainability is pervasive, making the companies more efficient, adaptable and focussed on supplying against customer needs whilst lowering impact on customer footprints – giving the supplier and the customer competitive advantage.

Copyright © Christopher Gleadle 2011

The CMG Consultancy

Sustainable Growth Through Sustainable Business – available now

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  1. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read anything like this before. So nice to find somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thank you for starting this up.

  2. The end of human evolution? We have an overpopulation problem and in the face of that problem deniers and ‘business as usual’ enthusiasts often say cavalierly, “Have the courage to do nothing.” That ideas of this kind are ever associated with word courage is the height of dishonesty and duplicity. Such expressions are also the most profound examples of self-serving thought and individual cowardice I can imagine. That such a point of view is broadcast by the mainstream media is a sign to us of its wrongheadedness.

    Let us not fail for another year to examine and report on extant research of human population dynamics/human overpopulation. The refusal of many too many experts to assume their responsibilities to science and perform their duties to humanity could be one of the most colossal mistakes in human history. Such woefully inadequate behavior by deniers, as is evident in the collusion of many too many experts, will soon enough be replaced with objective observations and truthful expressions from those in possession of clear vision, intellectual honesty and moral courage.

    Why not acknowledge science regarding human overpopulation and, by so doing, take a path toward sustainability? If we keep repeating the mistakes made in the past by denying science, nothing new and different can happen. Without an open acknowledgement of the root cause(s) of what is ailing the human family, how are we to move forward to raise awareness of the global predicament? Once awareness is raised among a critical mass of people, it becomes possible to organize for the purpose of formulating policies and actionable programs. Denial has kept us and continues to keep us from gaining momentum needed to address and overcome the human-driven challenges that currently threaten human well being and environmental health.

  3. Sustainable Capitalism?
    More and more, the corporate world is realizing that sustainability means long-term success, lower operational costs and profitability, let alone good PR. John Elkington raised in an article last week and asked if 2012 should be the start of a decade of Sustainable capitalism.

    And in public statement the CEO at Unilever, Paul Paul Polman, said he wants an equitable, sustainable capitalism. Iain Cheshire of Kingfisher is talking about a paradigm shift. Even the Harvard Business Review has called on CEOs to “fix the system”.

    I am not convinced that the issue is so easy to give a proper answer on. But, its necessary to give the issue a place on the 2012 agenda.

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