The banking crisis, the gap between rich and poor, and the race between computers and people: they are major global problems on the agenda of the World Economic Forum (WEF). However during the 2014 forum, there was also plenty of attention for sustainability. It was argued that sustainability could be very attractive financially. No tree huggers anywhere. It simply dealt with the relationship between sustainability and money.
The WEF is traditionally is held in Davos, Switzerland, this year from 22 to January 25. More than 3,000 CEOs, politicians and intellectuals had gathered to reflect on the great challenges of our time. A conference with influence, as the WEF is considered a leading advisory body on global decision-making.
Sustainable business has the momentum: wind farms are being built, we are investing in solar energy and a business plan without a sustainability paragraph is almost unthinkable. But what does that mean? What is the outcome of all these global efforts?
In short: it's not going so well with our planet. This is not new, but clearly demonstrated in the report Planet under Pressure (2012). With unchanged policies the demand for energy will increase as much as 80% by 2050. Fresh water shortage is going to be a huge problem, just like air pollution. In fact, air pollution will become the main cause of infant mortality in both rich and poor countries.
OK, all of this is still not new. We know that things should be different, but the experts cannot agree on how it should be different. Environmentalist Charles Eisenstein commented in the Guardian Professional is a popular idea: ‘Considerations such as 'what do you really care about' and 'who do you serve' should be drivers of sustainability, not profit.’ That sounds logical, but it is not. Sustainability and capitalism should just pull together.
Not long after Eisenstein’s provocative publication a fitting response from Hunter Lovins, CEO of Natural Capitalism Solutions, followed: ‘Sustainability is better business - and we can prove it.’ Lovins refers to the report Sustainability Pays, detailing more than 50 successful sustainability business cases. All companies are the market leader in their industry, , but also making a case for sustainability. What is their secret?
Innovation is the key to new products and services, but also to new methods of production and service delivery. Through innovation, significant savings can be achieved in energy, raw materials and thus costs. But to innovate one does not necessarily have to 'reinvent the wheel', there is already a lot of knowledge out there. For example, with the U.S. programme ‘The 3% Solution: Driving Profits Through Carbon Reductions.’ It provides companies with the tools to reduce their CO2 emissions by 3% annually. Good for the environment and good for the pocket book.
Sustainability benefits from a healthy dose of common sense: people - and hence companies - only change when they have a real interest to do so. By integrating sustainability into the way you manage and run your business big gains can be made. Not only environmentally, but also financially. That is a win-win situation.
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