In a turbulent business environment, leaders must begin to think more broadly about what a sustainable corporation is and how it can create a richer future. The journey may not be easy just as echoed in ‘Our Common Future (1987)’ but the end goal is weighty.
“Yet in the end, sustainable development is not a fixed state of harmony, but rather a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs. We do not pretend that the process is easy or straightforward.”
With the globalization of the world’s economies, the intensification of competition, and recent quantum leaps in technological development, it has become inadequate to understand the business environment and determining strategic direction.
Corporate Sustainability Reporting has, therefore, become a buzz word in companies big and small. It is a key priority in moving forward.
Most companies are now mindful of their carbon footprint and are embracing sustainable innovations. This steers a competitive advantage which ultimately has a positive financial impact.
Unilever has been at the forefront to make sustainable living commonplace and believes that business growth should not be at the expense of the people and the planet. To achieve this bold ambition, the company has adopted a Sustainable Living Plan with three main goals; improving the health and well-being of more than 1 billion by 2030, production of sustainable products, and enhancing livelihoods for millions come 2020. Through this, it has been able to reduce its environmental footprint and increase positive social impact – a prescription for every CEO.
Innovation in business is about doing something better. Innovations go beyond designing green products and packaging. It entails improving business operations and processes to become more efficient, with a goal of dramatically reducing cost and waste.
During the Sustainable Innovation Expo 2019 – launched at the UN Environment Assembly in March, over 42 technologies and innovative solutions were presented. From emission-free tuk-tuks to cutting edge alternatives to single-use plastic, to new ways of managing our forests and farmlands, the expo emphasized that sustainable innovation can change the choices we make and how we consume and produce.
“Some of the most important solutions to the climate crisis- and to biodiversity loss, and to many other challenges – will come from innovations,” said Joyce Msuya, Acting Executive Director of the UN Environment. “Innovation must work for all, not for the few – but creating innovation is also not the preserve of the few.”
As the expectations on corporate responsibility increase and transparency become more prevalent, companies are recognizing the need to act on sustainability. Professional communications and good intentions are no longer enough. Executives from organizations such as Oracle, Coca –Cola, BMW, Toyota and not forgetting Tesla agree that incorporating sustainability as a design principle creates a better and more innovative business.
Business model innovations are suspected to yield higher returns than product or process innovations, and sustainable business models might have additional benefits of higher risk mitigation and resilience and yield additional diversification and value co-creation opportunities. To realize these advantages, organizations have to become increasingly interested in implementing sustainable innovative solutions.
Related Article: Innovation is crucial for the new world of sustainability
According to a statement by the UN Environment, Innovative sustainable business represents a trillion-dollar opportunity that can bring value to the people and the environment. Driving innovations in a circular, green and low – carbon growth and aligning businesses and investments with the 2030 Agenda, companies must pay attention to the rules of the game governing sustainable business growth.
An important takeaway is that sustainable innovations have far more meaning in businesses than one could assume. They inform stewardship codes, which in turn become the guidelines for directing how business should be done. So it’s crucial to recognize that those top-level conversations have real-world implications. Sustainable innovations in business are not mere aspirations. Most CEOs are taking this seriously and putting their money where their mouth is in the most direct way possible.