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Meaning of sustainability differs from one person to other person, and from one organization to other organization. For some organisations, sustainability means surviving. They are true in their sense, as they need to survive to avoid redundancies.

For other organisations, sustainability means some combination of following parameters:

  1. Social
  2. Environmental
  3. Ethical
  4. Economic

To our knowledge, the concept of sustainable development was firstly described by the 1987 Bruntland Commission Report, which was presented to United Nations. It means – development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

What business growth issue can sustainability address?

  1. It may let you gain business from the public sector, as most governments have added sustainability criteria into purchasing decisions.
  2. You may be able to become supplier or win business from a large company, as 97% of the procurement organizations surveyed consider sustainability/CSR important for procurement decision. https://www.hec.edu/en/news-room/state-sustainable-procurement-latest-ecovadis/hec-paris-barometer-released
  3. You may have an upper hand in competing with other suppliers. US Dodd-Frank Act, UK Modern Slavery Act and EU Conflict Mineral Regulation are driving companies to assess their supplier’s sustainability credentials.
  4. You should be able to attract more consumers. As per Forbes – 88% of the consumers want companies to help them make a difference. https://www.forbes.com/sites/solitairetownsend/2018/11/21/consumers-want-you-to-help-them-make-a-difference/?sh=63b431896954
  5. You may be able to address the fast growing expectation on environmentally-friendly, ethical and healthy alternatives. BBC – COVID-19 and sustainability. – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-55630144
  6. You can drive financial outperformance. Oxford University –
    https://arabesque.com/research/From_the_stockholder_to_the_stakeholder_web.pdf
  7. You can uplift revenue of 5-20%, reduce cost by 9-16% and increase brand value by 15-30%. World Economic Forum – http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEFUSA_BeyondSupplyChains_Report2015.pdf

What major problem areas can sustainability potentially solve?

Problems solved by sustainability assessment can be divided into 4 broader areas:
  1. Brand Image & Company Reputation
  2. Revenue Growth
  3. Profit Growth / Cost Reduction
  4.  Risk Mitigation
Value Matrix

Why should you hire someone to carry out a 3rd party sustainability certification?

Any 3rd party sustainability certification should provide more assurance to you.  This should directly improve your ability to improve your sustainability credentials. Following seems like additional benefits:
  1. Free up internal resources
  2. Quicker assessment because of skills & processes
  3. Reduced assessment cost
  4. Access to specialised talent
  5. Increase focus on core capabilities
  6. Improve credibility and brand image
  7. Improve process control
  8. Improve Key Performance Indicators
  9. Improve Key Result Area awareness
  10. Drive innovation
  11. Improve compliance
  12. Commercial advantage by differentiating you from your peers/competitors
  13. Reasonably improved assurance to your stakeholders when compared with self-assessment/self-certification.
  14. Reduce financial risks
  15. Reduce operational risks

Is there a detailed list of problems, which could be potentially addressed through sustainability ?

The list is based on 11 links after this list.

Brand Image & Company Reputation

  • 1. Increase transparency
  • 2. Better employee morale and talent retention linked to good labor practices
  • 3. Attract talent
  • 4. Healthier and safer environment for employees
  • 5. Improvement of labor standards
  • 6. Engaged investors
  • 7. Attract investors
  • 8. Make shareholders happy
  • 9. Increase shareholder confidence
  • 10. Sustainable brand image positively affecting credit rating and funding cost
  • 11. Higher brand value through certifications
  • 12. Global brand improvement
  • 13. Build, enhance & protect brand to increase competitive advantage
  • 14. Positive community impact
  • 15. Positive environment impact with lesser pollution (air – water – land)
  • 16. Improved customer goodwill
  • 17. Improved health benefits for customer
  • 18. Avoids serious health risks
  • 19. Local job creation
  • 20. Remanufacturing creates hundreds of thousands jobs
  • 21. Lower noise emissions
  • 22. Improve recyclability,
  • 23. Redesign – Promote Innovation
  • 24. Rethink – Example – Replace plastics with bio-plastic

Profit Increase / Cost Reduction

  • 25. Improved energy efficiency, so reduced costs
  • 26. Innovating with suppliers and customers, so reduced costs
  • 27. Streamlining supply chain and logistics, so reduced costs
  • 28. Resource (energy, material and water) productivity improvement, so reduced costs
  • 29. Reduced waste and better equipment efficiency through total productive maintenance
  • 30. Reduced transportation costs and carbon exhaust
  • 31. Lower packaging costs
  • 32. Higher freight utilization, so lower carbon emissions
  • 33. Lower inventory costs
  • 34. Opportunity to recycle or refurbish material
  • 35. Remanufacturing leads to net reduction in input cost
  • 36. Remanufacturing requires 85% less energy compared to manufacturing
  • 37. Increase in productivity by improving efficiency and effectiveness
  • 38. Companies can also charge higher price premiums up to 20%
  • 39. Reduce buying and increase renting to share resource
  • 40. Reuse – Promoted old end of life batteries for short term energy backup
  • 41. Recycle – Old Equipment refitted to New Units
  • 42. Reprocess – Modified old eqpt to suit new requirement
  • 43. Refurbish equipment for life extension
  • 44. Remanufacture for synergies for easy maintenance
  • 45. Repair equipment to keep it in use
  • 46. Recycle at end of life, and sell equipment to generate revenue
  • 47. Repurpose equipment for redefined need.
  • 48. Recover parts for non-repairable, non-saleable, non-refurbish able, non-reusable equipment before recycling
  • 49. Rent instead of buy – Sharing of equipment
  • 50. Recertify for life extension
  • 51. Redefine needs

Revenue Growth

  • 52. Increase exports
  • 53. New revenue streams through closed loop manufacturing processes (e.g. by re-using products)
  • 54. New revenue streams by selling waste
  • 55. Price premium on products manufactured through clean technology
  • 56. Price premium on products produced organically or through other sustainable practice.
  • 57. Every dollar spent on EHS programmes result in a return of $1.5 to $6
  • 58. Enter growing market of sustainable investment, goods and services
  • 59. Redesigning products to meet environmental standards or social needs offers new business opportunities.
  • 60. Position yourself as an industry and/or market leader

Risk Mitigation

  • 61. Securing “license to operate” – establishing credibility when it comes to sustainability – through regulation compliance (e.g. through proper environmental, healthand safety programs providing high ethical standards)
  • 62. Protecting social credibility to operate, so risk mitigation
  • 63. Integrating sustainability aspects with corporate risk management
  • 64. Developing manufacturing processes for sustainable substitutes that diversify sourcing risk
  • 65. Mitigation of company risks due to unethical suppliers.

Above sustainability benefits are based on following links from various reputed institutions:

Sustainability

How sustainability helped address problems and attain benefits according to World Economic Forum?

  1. Revenue uplift of 5-20%
  2. Supply chain cost reduction of 9-16%
  3. Brand value increase of 15-30%
  4. Significant company risk reduction
  5. Social – Improved customer health, local welfare and labour standards (wages, working conditions)
  6. Environment – Carbon gas reduction of 13-22% on overall footprint

How sustainability helped address problems and attain benefits according to Oxford University?

  1. 90% of the studies on the cost of capital show that sound sustainability standards lower the cost of capital of companies.
  2. 88% of the research shows that solid ESG practices result in better operational performance of firms.
  3. 80% of the studies show that stock price performance of companies is positively influenced by good sustainability practices.

How sustainability helped address problems and attain benefits according to Harvard Business Review?

  1. Employee Morale was 55% better in companies with strong sustainability programs.
  2. Employee Loyalty was 38% better in companies with strong sustainability programs.
  3. Firms with greater corporate responsibility performance can reduce average turnover over time by 25-50%.
  4. Firms that adopted environmental standards have seen a 16% increase in productivity.
  5. Companies can also charge higher price premiums up to 20% according to some estimates.
  6. Overall sales revenue can increase up to 20% due to corporate responsibility practices.
  7. In the food and beverage industry, a growing number of consumers are considering values beyond price and taste in their purchasing decisions, such as safety, social impact, and transparency.
  8. During the 2008 recession, companies committed to sustainability practices achieved “above average” performance in the financial markets, translating into an average of $650 million in incremental market capitalization per company.
  9. Since 1994, Dow has invested nearly $2 billion in improving resource efficiency and has saved $9.8 billion from reduced energy and wastewater consumption in manufacturing.
  10. In 2013, GE had reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 32% and water use by 45% compared to 2004 and 2006 baselines, respectively, resulting in $300 million in savings.
  11. Wal-Mart, for example, aimed to double fleet efficiency between 2005 and 2015 through better routing, truck loading, driver training, and advanced technologies. By the end of 2014, they had improved fuel efficiency approximately 87% compared to the 2005 baseline.
  12. Redesigning products to meet environmental standards or social needs offers new business opportunities.
  13. Nike embedded sustainability into its innovation process and created the $1 billion-plus Flyknit line, which uses a specialized yarn system, requiring minimal labor and generating large profit margins. Flyknit reduces waste by 80% compared with regular cut and sew footwear. Since its launch in 2012, Flyknit has reduced 3.5 million pounds of waste and fully transitioned from yarn to recycled polyester, diverting 182 million bottles from landfills.
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