Why Leading Sustainability? PDF Print E-mail

Are you a medium- or small-sized business that thinks that sustainability is for large organizations  —  but not for yours? Or that sustainability is harmful to the bottom line? Or that it has no relevance to your industry? Or, perhaps, that it is a nice idea for a strong economy?

You might want to re-think your position based on the results of multiple studies showing that  —  especially in this economy — companies of all sizes that are adopting sustainable principles and practices are creating competitive advantage, reducing risk, increasing market share and adding significantly to their bottom line. Non-profits and government agencies also reduce costs and improve performance.

In short, sustainability is the new standard of excellence, whether for business, NGOs or governments. Period.

How do we know this? Look at the Global 100 index, announced annually at the World Economic Forum in Davos — a ranking of the companies that score highest worldwide for both stock and sustainability performance. These are the companies that, while not perfect, are making their progress in environment and social responsibility count on the financial bottom line. Other indices find the same results. If these big companies can find these sorts of advantages and claim market leadership through sustainable practices, then any company can.

Why and how are these companies so successful? What lessons learned are of value to your company or organization?

Leading Sustainability will help you answer these questions and more in the quest to determine how you can strengthen your organization and enhance financial performance by adopting the “triple bottom line”, whether you are for profit, not-for-profit or a government agency.

Common Scenarios: We Can Help!

Do any of these scenarios describe your situation?

  • You are a champion for sustainability within your company, but need help engaging others.
  • Your company has benefited from its green practices but you have struggled with how to message and market these.
  • A colleague has been talking about sustainability and its value proposition for the bottom line — is this something you should be looking at?
  • Your major client has informed you that they are establishing a sustainable supply chain and have asked you to comply.
  • You want to become a vendor to a US government agency, but need to learn more compliance with their supply chain directives on energy and environment, including Executive Order 13514.
  • Your marketing department has suggested that your brand would be more competitive globally if you adopted sustainable principles and reduced your carbon footprint.
  • Your COO has said that there are significant dollar savings in adopting energy efficiency programs and policies.
  • Your child wants you to talk to her class about your Fair Trade practices….but her pen pal in Guatemala is not so sure about your efforts.

Others have faced and are facing these questions and issues — and are succeeding for their organizations and stakeholders, whether as businesses, non-profit organizations or government agencies.

What Is Sustainability?

Sustainability is a framework for decision-making that is rapidly gaining popularity in businesses and communities, governments and non-profits — worldwide. It is often defined as a framework for action that helps us meet “the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”[1]

Fundamentally, sustainability is about finding new ways to live and work on planet earth that support the ability for all living systems to thrive indefinitely.

There are three requisite cornerstones for sustainability: People, Planet and Prosperity.

This means examining any decision for its business or institutional value, which involves the financial (prosperity) bottom line, as well as the potential costs and benefits to the other two areas. This is the path to the “Triple Bottom Line.”

A sustainability approach incorporates a forward-looking view that is inclusive and values-based. It is about changing mind-sets and building the foundation for the economy of the future, with benefits to those who adopt; an economy that everyone from baby boomers to the millennial generations and beyond will soon be living with.

Read More About “What Is Sustainability”

Value Proposition for Businesses

Little of this will happen in the time frame called for given the urgency of global climate change and the needs of growing populations unless and until the change is led by business. Governments have a terribly important role in helping to set frameworks for action through policy and regulation, in setting procurement strategies and in endorsing international treaties (we can still hope). But the engines for action lie in business, small and large, worldwide.

The benefits of adopting sustainable principles and practices can lead to:

  • Enhanced brand and increased market share;
  • Significant cost savings through energy efficiency and more effective use of resources;
  • Risk reduction and improved risk management;
  • Inclusion in sustainable or green supply chains;
  • Competitive advantage in markets worldwide;
  • Re-energized employees; and
  • Greater support from and within local communities.


Those individuals and entities that have adopted sustainability are discovering that there are tremendous rewards for so doing. As with any new approach to managing growth and development, however, there have been many challenges to overcome and learning curves to analyze. The leaders who have moved this field forward have much to share — this website provides some of those “Stories from the Frontlines” (coming soon) that will serve to educate and inspire.

[1] Brundtland Commission Report, 1987