Why is Sustainability Crucial for Corporate Strategy?

Climate change is, undeniably, the issue of our times. Scientists have been raising the alarm on climate change for decades, and, despite their best efforts, global temperatures have continued to rise. The rampant acceleration of mass-manufacturing in today’s consumerist society has, in large part, contributed to unsustainable levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – which governments globally have failed to curtail.

Within the wider conversation around the climate emergency, issues of sustainability have become key conversations. Not only are individuals feeling culpability for their own environmental impacts, but pressure is rising for businesses and industries to recognise their proportional responsibilities to minimise their impacts. Indeed, the latter point has seen sustainability become one of the more important factors in contemporary corporate strategy. But why, and how should businesses adapt to recognise this?

The Fight for Sustainability
In the climate conversation, reduction of carbon emissions is the predominant topic. This can be achieved by a variety of methods and nifty scientific solutions, but every solution has the term ‘sustainability’ at the heart of it. This term has come to mean a number of things, and refers just as much to the ethical consumption of goods as it does the fight for a greener, safer future. However, at its core, sustainability is exactly as it sounds – a quality that guarantees longevity, maintenance, and balance.

Fossil fuels are, by definition, unsustainable sources of energy. This is true both directly and indirectly: they are a finite resource which cannot be repleted in anything but a geological timescale; their usage produces greenhouse gases which hasten the onset of unliveable environmental conditions. Hence, sustainability becomes more than an individual virtue or a push to recycle; it becomes a major route by which accountability and change are litigated.

Businesses and Responsibility
In discussing sustainability and climate change, it is impossible to ignore the proportionally large role that businesses and industries play in contributing to carbon emissions. While much of the public conversation surrounds topics of conspicuous consumption and at-home sustainability efforts, it is an unavoidable truth that the carbon footprint of industry outweighs that of individual consumers – and that real change cannot be codified without active and involved efforts by businesses to create sustainable frameworks.

There is also a PR element to this conversation. Businesses that fail to adequately account for and address unsustainable practices are more susceptible to receive negative press, with potentially catastrophic results for business longevity.

Sustainability Solutions
What, then, can be done to make a business sustainable? For some businesses, the answers are simple; manufacturing and processing plants produce waste gases which pollute the local environment and introduce carbon into the atmosphere, where air pollution solutions in the form of waste gas filtering can minimise such impacts. For other businesses, the route is less clear.

Businesses that exist in administrative or digital planes have less direct environmental impacts, but nonetheless measurable ones. The running of cloud servers, for example, contributes a great deal more to carbon emissions than businesses might anticipate. Sustainable energy solutions are effective for offsetting some impacts, as are electric company vehicle schemes.

Photo credits: Coworking London