Environmental Sustainability is Organizational Sustainability, and It Will Grow Your Business

It’s a “green” time of year – crocuses and butterfly bushes are budding outside our office, and spring feels just around the corner. But the northern hemisphere isn’t the only thing heating up.

Globally, climate is one of 2022’s hot topics. The consequences of climate change were among the top five consumer concerns in an early 2022 Ipsos poll: 60% of people expect more frequent and more severe weather events to affect their area this year than in 2021.

The number one concern, globally and among the U.S. public, is the economy. This includes the very present fears and frustrations about inflation, job stability, retention and recruitment, gas and energy prices and continuing supply chain challenges.

It may be tempting to focus entirely on those immediate, imposing economic problems – but organizational sustainability and environmental sustainability are inextricable.

What is Sustainability, Really?

Sustainability is very often defined per the 1987 U.N. World Commission on Environment and Development: “Development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

When we are faced with tough challenges or decisions in business, we aren’t just answering the question, “What is the right call for today?” We’re really asking, “How will our company continue to fulfill our purpose and provide value in the future?”

The critical flip side of that question is, “To what kind of world will our company provide value?” That is a question of environmental and social sustainability.

As BlackRock CEO Larry Fink puts it, “Climate risk is an investment risk.

Shades of Green

This doesn’t mean every organization will take the same approach or make the same contributions to that future, and it doesn’t mean we have to change the way we do everything all at once.

Earth Day is a little more than a month away – so if you’re looking for an opportunity to launch something that aligns with your business model and has real impact, here are a few inspiring examples of sustainability initiatives we have worked on recently:

  1. A health-related client started an employee-led initiative to cut back on plastic bags and plastic packaging, recycle the plastic they do use, and partner with a neighboring company that turns recycled plastic bags into outdoor furniture.
  2. Real estate developers are incorporating more green space, including parks and bike paths, into new development projects. One client plans to plant a new tree for every home sold in their signature communities.
  3. A funeral home client offers the Living Memorial Tree Planting Program, where trees are planted in memory of loved ones, and an implant recycling program for pacemakers and other lifesaving technology. Green funerals are also becoming more popular.
  4. As green chemistry tops the trend charts in scientific fields, a chemistry client introduced sustainability plans for their own operations and integrated into their vendor selection policy.
  5. One client is sponsoring and volunteering with a program that teaches young students how to garden and provides fresh produce from the harvest.
  6. At our own office, we installed an electric vehicle charger – as of this writing, half our team drives electric or hybrid vehicles!

These initiatives all contributed value back to those businesses – by engaging employees, attracting new residents or customers, building new relationships and partnerships, and even increasing revenue.

Your Own Version of Sustainability

What if the solution to your most pressing business problem also alleviates some or all of your public’s top five concerns? How could an environmental or social program mitigate your recruitment challenges, or help you meet that lofty profit goal? What investment in business continuity aligns best with your company’s values, your purpose, your customers’ needs?

Once your sustainability initiatives are in place, talk about them, and keep talking about them! Inspire others with your forward thinking; gather more support and momentum. You will see your impact – and your business – grow as a result.

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