What comes to mind when we hear the term “sustainability”?
Sustainability is multifaceted and complex. It is wide in range, and its spectrum encompasses everything from modern slavery to energy efficiency. To many, when you ask them, “what is the first thing that pops into their head when you hear the word sustainability,” it usually isn’t the lack of potable water in a developing nation. No, images of green roofs, solar panels, electric cars, and eco-friendly products will most likely pop up.
Real sustainability issues pose a significant challenge for many individuals and organizations, prompting the misconception that it invariably adds costs. This is also referred to as the “sustainability premium”. This is the belief that being sustainable is expensive and hinders efforts to reduce the negative impact on the environment and society. In this post, I will prove that the perceived connection between sustainability and added costs is a misconception that needs to be debunked.
Sustainability Improves Efficiency and Reduces Waste. This is important.
Sustainability is often viewed in the context of renewable energy, recyclable materials, and associated costs. However, it is important to note that incorporating sustainable practices is often associated with better resource management leading to cost savings. For example, utilizing sustainable project practices as defined in our P5 Standard may incur more upfront costs as analysis can take some time. Still, the often uncovered changes lead to efficiencies and improved outcomes that can reduce risk to both brand and reputation.
Seeking more sustainable alternatives also leads to better waste management and waste reduction. Organizations that adopt sustainable practices such as recycling, upcycling, and downcycling reduce their environmental footprint, but they also create a more efficient and streamlined business model in the process. By rethinking the use of existing materials, products, and resources, businesses can be more efficient in their operations, reducing waste and saving money in the process.
Sustainability as a Marketing and Branding Strategy
With rising consumer demand for sustainability, companies must adjust their practices to align with these newfound values. In addition, embracing a brand that promotes sustainable practices is becoming as important as the quality of the product or service itself. Sustainability is, in many cases, viewed as a selling point for products, enhancing a brand’s reputation and competitiveness. Incorporating sustainability into a company’s marketing strategy can improve revenue and strengthen the loyalty of its customers. But…. Only if the work is actually being done. Organizations should not slap an eco-friendly badge on their product if the product isn’t assessed as such by a credible 3rd party.
Governments are playing a vital role in driving sustainable practices. To encourage businesses to adopt environmentally responsible practices, governments are introducing regulations and offering incentives to those who choose to act on it. For instance, some countries, including the UK and Germany, offer tax breaks and subsidies to businesses that demonstrate their commitment to sustainability through carbon reduction and energy conservation.
The Hidden Costs of Un-sustainability
While incorporating sustainable practices may imply initial investments, the hidden cost of unsustainable practices are far more significant. Environmental and social problems manifesting from unsustainable practices, such as pollution, depletion of natural resources, climate change, and social unrest, are either directly or indirectly associated with large costs. The costs are often felt at varying time frames, and when added together, they are far more significant than the immediate investments needed to transition to sustainable practices. Remember the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico? How much is that still costing them?
To sum it all up.
With the rise of sustainability as a central value proposition for both individuals and businesses, it can be useful to discard the myths surrounding the notion that sustainability comes with added costs. Sustainable practices often lead to efficiencies, reduced waste, and quality products, and can have a positive impact on branding and customer loyalty. Governments are offering incentives to help businesses transition to sustainable practices, and the hidden costs of un-sustainability are far more significant. By embracing sustainability, we can protect our environment and resources, improve our health, increase profitability and create a better future for everyone.
Sustainability is not an option but a necessity. It is something that we must embrace as individuals, families, and businesses for a better future. The idea that sustainability comes with added costs is a notion that needs to be challenged, and we must make an effort to see that the benefits of being sustainable far outweigh the costs. If your organization is seeking to align strategy and practice, we can help.