While many business managers fear that it is too costly to examine their products, services, and operations, others are finding that small investments in sustainability can reap large gains. Forward-looking firms are discovering that many financial opportunities await them if they embrace more environmentally sustainable "green" business practices.
Sustainable developments are those that meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In the world of sustainable business, we expand this into the triple bottom line: People, Planet, and Profit. Businesses can indeed thrive and be profitable while caring for people and the planet. There are some easy steps to be taken, such as installing energy-efficient lighting. But there are other, less obvious opportunities as well:
Consumers and businesses perceive the organizations they associate with as more than just financial entities. More and more they think about how their purchases affect non-financial outcomes such as the environment, human capital, quality of life, and future generations. By aligning your organization with values of sustainability, your brand can build trust and loyalty among the rising number of "green" consumers.
Studies show that firms that operate in an environmentally friendly manner reap the benefit of improved employee moral and retention levels. Recruiting and retaining new employees, and repairing the damage associated with the loss of skilled employees, are often the highest Human Resource cost that firms carry. By improving your sustainability you will see large savings in this area.
Sustainable businesses provide healthier environments for both employees and consumers. There is also reduced risk of personal injury.
Forward-looking insurance companies such as Fireman's Fund offer reduced rates to businesses that can demonstrate sustainable practices, based on actuarial figures that demonstrate that such firms have lower risk. Lowered risk factors include less chance of litigation, safer work environments, higher employee motivation and loyalty, and better preparation for future government regulations.
Today, some might see sustainability as an option. But as consumers, business, and government place more importance on sustainability, it will soon become a necessity, with those caught off guard losing market share to those that saw it coming. Cities such as San Francisco and New York are implementing green building ordinances. The tide is turning: in the near future, firms that are not green will be at a severe disadvantage when trying to do business in this fast changing business environment.