Socially useful business is neither a new idea nor one which is particularly at odds with the fundamental point of business – to sell things which people want or need.
However, demonstrating social utility has becoming rather a burning issue in recent years, spurred not just by the slow growing questioning of the current mode of international capitalism but also by the rather more pointed challenges to the purpose of whole sections of the economy raised by the recent financial crash.
At a recent TSSS event (Feb. 5, 2015) we explored the disconnect between Bay/Wall St. and Sustainability (click for written event summary). Please enjoy the highlights in this short video captured as part of the Partners in Project Green, ask the expert series.
I think the opportunity lies with the long term stakeholders like pension funds that have more patience in seeing the benefits of integrating ESG factors in their analysis.
— Ian McPherson, Last Spike Capital
We need the big guys (who are the early adopters, like PUMA, Unilever, and Patagonia) to start sending signals of the new ways of running the economy and the world.
— Bob Willard
There will be a day when financial statements will be continuous – companies must do a better job of telling their story.
— Julie Desjardins
Connecting the two world is challenging because investors are often looking at different, more short term factors, compared to the sustainability community that is often looking at issues that are much longer term.
— Martin Grosskopf, Vice President and Portfolio Manager, Director of Sustainable Investing at AGF
H&M’s latest sustainability report touts the brand’s commitment to environmental and social responsibility, but who’s really paying for our cheap clothes? Photo credit: Shutterstock
Earlier this month, H&M released its 110-pageConscious Action Sustainability Report, its 13th annual review of its green practices and efforts towards fair wages within its factories. Although many of its figures and initiatives are commendable (e.g. its in-store recycling program brought in around 13,000 tons of clothing; it aims to use 80 percent renewable electricity by year’s end; it’s inspecting more textile suppliersin order to improve working conditions), environmental and social advocates have pointed out some of the report’s inconsistencies.
Fueled by globalization, technological change, population growth and shifting demographics, sustainability mega-forces will affect the ability of business to succeed and thrive over the next 30 years.
An interconnected set of leadership competencies will be in high demand from the next generation of sustainability leaders.
With the global population expected to balloon from 7 billion to 9 billion people by 2050, companies will need to reinvent themselves to secure their access to resources and the social license to operate and grow.
At the leading edge of sustainability best practice some leading companies are already developing meaningful pathways towards truly sustainable business models. For the followers, there is perhaps a perceptible acceptance that sustainability is an important aspect of good corporate management. However, there still remains a need to demonstrate, within the current modes of capitalism, how sustainability impacts financial performance.
In our discussions with companies and sustainability practitioners within them, we often find that establishing a clear business case for sustainability is still required.