Thursday, February 29, 2024

The Next Phase Of Business Sustainability


The era of corporates integrating sustainable practices is being surpassed by a new age of corporations actively transforming the market to make it more sustainable.

Business sustainability has come a long way. From the dawn of the modern environmental movement and the establishment of environmental regulations in the 1970s. It has become a strategic concern driven by market forces. Today, more than 90 percent of CEOs state that sustainability is important to their company’s success, and companies develop sustainability strategies, market sustainable products, and services, create positions such as chief sustainability officer, and publish sustainability reports for consumers, investors, activists and the public at large.

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This trend will not fade away anytime soon. Surveys show that 88 percent of business school students think that learning about social and environmental issues in business is a priority, and 67 percent want to incorporate environmental sustainability into their future jobs. To meet this demand, business schools have increased their intake from 34 percent in 2001 to 79 percent in 2011, worldwide. , Specific academic programs on business sustainability can now be found in 46 percent of the top 100 business schools.

For all this interest, we should expect the world to become more sustainable, but calamities such as climate change, water scarcity, species extinction, and many others are proving to be persistent and dissuading our sustainable goals. Sustainable business is reaching the limits of what it can accomplish in its present form. It is slowing down the velocity at which we are approaching a full-on the crisis, but we are not changing course. Instead of tinkering around the edges of the market with new products and services, a business must now transform it. That is the focus of the next phase of business sustainability, and we can see signs that it is emerging.

The first phase of business sustainability is founded on a business model that responds to market shifts, to increase competitive positioning by integrating sustainable business practices. By contrast, the next phase of business sustainability- market transformation is founded on a business model rather than a market shift.

Enterprise integration is geared toward present-day measures of success; market transformation will help companies create tomorrow’s measures. The first is focused on reducing unsustainability –  attends to symptoms and focuses primarily on the health and vitality of the organization. The second is focused on creating sustainability.

Changing the way we do business is essential to addressing the challenges of environmental degradation. The market is the most powerful institution on earth, and business is the most powerful entity within it. Business transcends national boundaries, and it possesses resources that exceed those of many nation-states. Business is responsible for producing the buildings we live and work in, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the automobiles we drive, the energy that propels them, and the next form of mobility that will replace them. This does not mean that only business can generate solutions, but with its unmatched powers of ideation, production, and distribution, business is best positioned to bring the change we need at the scale we need it.

We believe it is time to redefine sustainable business. It is time for business and other partners to embrace new issues, new ways of pursuing sustainability, and new – and more assertive –voice. The shifts in the environment, technology, and economics suggest the need to emphasize a new set of issues. Moreover, the variations on familiar topics present different questions today and will continue to do so into the next decade.

Business, as usual, will not get the job done- and sustainability, as usual, will not suffice. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change, build truly fair and inclusive economic growth, navigate a radically reshaped world, it is time for a change. We have within our grasp the ability to reorient business and turn the tide on climate change, deliver an economic opportunity for all, and build connected societies in which all people can live in dignity and with respect.

Dr. Edward Mungai
Dr. Edward Mungai
The writer, Dr. Edward Mungai, is a global sustainability expert. He is the Lead Consultant and Partner at Impact Africa Consulting Ltd (IACL), a leading sustainability and strategy advisory in Africa. He is also the Chief Editor at Africa Sustainability Matters. He can be contacted via

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