Sustainability Nears a Tipping Point

MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group have conducted a global survey of managers and executives on the topic of sustainable business practices (Sustainability Reaches Tipping Point). They come up with following findings:

  1. Managers focused on Sustainability Agendas
    70% of managers have put sustainability on their agendas within the past six years, and of that, 20% have done so in the past two years. Since, all this has staken place during economic recession, this shows the increasing importance of sustainability. The subject is being taken more seriously than in previous periods and 68% of organizations surveyed plan to increase their commitment to sustainability.
  2.  Leaders of Sustainability
    Interestingly enough, while most respondents believed Europe to be the leader for sustainability, emerging economies have shown the most initiative. For instance, Mexican cement company CEMEX has instituted a savings program that allows low-income individuals to build their own homes using products provided by the company. More houses are being built at a faster and less material intensive pace. Innovation within business strategy is being led by countries in these regions. 
  3. The Harvesters in action
    Harvesters are those respondents who stated that their sustainability practices adopted by them led to added profits. Compared to non-harvesters, harvesters are 2.5 times more likely to have chief sustainability officers and 50% more likely to have CEO support. Hence, harvesters have or appear to have integrated sustainability into their business strategy. Harvesters are furthering the case for sustainability because they have found that this method of operation has worked financially and reputationally and will prove to be sustainable in the long run.  
  4.  Lessons from the Harvesters
    In terms of organizational structure, harvesters often incorporate CSOs into their C-suite and quite often create an arm of the business that concentrates on sustainability practices. This often allows a company to easily express its goals to the rest of its employees or suppliers. Along with this, harvesters have also been seen to be more proactive. Rather than simply react to legislative or external changes, these organizations anticipate these occurrences and shift according to these expectations. Finally, harvesters collaborate more with other companies, suppliers, and customers. They realize that fostering these relationships allows for a unification that ultimately leads to reaching sustainability goals and greater profits.
  5. Looking Ahead
    From the research, it is easy to see that sustainability has taken off within the last ten years. Harvesters are clear examples of this as they are leading the way in shaking up the system by changing organizational structure, operations, and business relationship approach in the effort to become more sustainable. By taking a cue from organizations such as these, sustainability and businesses seem to have a bright future ahead. 

Since, this is the subject of sustainability where everyone on this planet is the stake holder, for ex. survey doesn’t considers the involvement of consumers. Although, findings of the survey are quite interesting but by just focusing on ‘Harvesters’ (on high level: companies) it clearly shows that it is focused inward rather than outward. 

Other thing to notice is the Title of this article, ‘Sustainability Reaches Tipping Point’, which is in a way unclear. ‘Tipping Point’ in usual sense means the point where there is an ubrupt change in the scenario, on the contrary findings show that efforts towards sustainability were going on from around the last decade. It even started before 2002. So, it would be right to say that focus on sustainability has increased significantly in the last decade. Chief Sustainability officers were not appointed over night. It’s not abrupt in true sense rather it was gradual.

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