Where Sustainability Thrives, So Does Longevity

Sustainability is a word oft batted around, but what does it actually mean for your company?

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By Mary Stokes

There is certainly confusion concerning what sustainability is, and which parts of business it affects.  The UN’s Bruntland Commission in their 1987 report, Our Common Future, defined it as, “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.  While this is applicable as a way of life, it is equally important for businesses, especially with regard to manufacturing and business practices.

The goal of sustainable development is to create an environment that lends itself to longevity.  In an age where many businesses are not expected to pass the 18 year mark, longevity is a desired yet elusive trait.  However, it does not have to be; sustainability is the key to not only corporate longevity, but also corporate success and flourishment.

Sustainability does not mean the end of innovation.  Rather, it encourages a different type of creativity in each aspect of a business’s workings.  This may mean updating and changing practices in the manufacturing aspect, or simply modifying the surroundings to create a more energy-efficient environment.  The ideal approach is a blend of short-term and long-term changes, with a focus on both the immediate return and the future return.  A balanced approach will improve the potential for longevity without causing strain by reducing profits.  Implementing sustainability actually encourages innovation by challenging businesses to brainstorm new approaches to decreasing waste and improving production.

Recently, Dell started recycling carbon fiber and plastics into new products, a major change that could potentially create $1 trillion of additional value.  While this is a recent change, the point Vice Chairman of Operations Jeff Clarke makes is that while their recent changes are eco-friendly, they have also created a better product with increased value, which is of equal importance.

In an interview with blogger Taylor Eason, Jon Ruel, CEO of Trefelthen Vineyards, has a slightly different take on sustainability practices.  While the demand for organic and sustainable products has increased in recent years, as the public has become more informed, he notes that the green and sustainable part of business is less for the creation of a “delicious and authentic” wine product and more for the longevity of the business, so “[they] can keep making delicious wine for years to come.”

Both businesses are concerned with sustainability, but they present a picture of both long-term and short-term gains.  A balance of both is necessary for the longevity of a business; additionally, putting sustainability to practice is encouraging a new level of innovation in business practices.

Rather than viewing sustainability as difficult or having no substantial short-term return, businesses ought to see it in light of the innovation and challenge it can bring to their practices and employees.  In fact, sustainability can drive growth by creating a competitive environment and encouraging employees to be knowledgeable and care about sustainability.

In order to have a lasting impact and create future value, sustainability is an absolute must.  The futures of businesses are impingent on their sustainable practices.  Where sustainability thrives, so does longevity.

Mary Stokes is a technical writer based out of the Twin Cities metro area.  You can contact her at www.tyrison7.wordpress.com.

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