The Undeniable Shift Toward Sustainable Business

By Mackenzie Pedersen, Staff Writer 

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In this day and age, social issues run rampant in our society and recent news. These issues include a variety of subject matters from climate change to sexual harassment to labor rights. And people are beginning to take action! This action can be seen, especially in social media, with: #metoo or #timesup for ending sexual harassment, #blacklivesmatter for ending racial discrimination and police brutality, the Make America Green Again for environmental advocacy by The Sierra Club, and so much more.

As a result, people are creating a collective voice while holding businesses responsible. Additionally, an Edelman survey published in 2016 specifies that 8 out of 10 people are expecting businesses to take the lead in solving these issues, especially in the area that these companies operate. The result is a customer push for sustainable business. Moreover, examples of customers causing a disruption of business for sustainable efforts are already in existence. A specifically memorable example of a company making sustainable practice changes due to customer’s activism is Nike.

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Pictures of Nike using what people deem ‘sweat-shop labor’ were provided to the general public and caused outrage. As stated by Rob Harrison, editor of Ethical Consumer, “Nike was targeted by campaigners because it was the world’s best-selling brand and because initially it denied responsibility for any malpractice that may be taking place in its sub-contractor factories.” Consequently, Nike now provides transparency and focuses on sustainable business practices to this day.

Using Business for Good

Erin Callahan, the executive director of The Climate Collaborative, states in an interview with GreenBiz that 8 out of 10 millennials would rather pay for a product that is sustainable than not. The Climate Collaborative was born on March 8, 2017 and works to bring organizations together to not only mitigate climate change but reverse it entirely. They hope to achieve this goal by creating “a community of businesses… to create pathways to action, connecting companies to resources and working together to create solutions. We shine a light on success stories” and have been extremely successful in obtaining a number of corporate partners. During this podcast interview, she specifies that sustainable businesses are achievable. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways including a focus on a creating sustainable supply chains and products. These will serve as a competitive advantage, if it has not done so already.

Furthermore, Chief Marketing Officer of Unilever Keith Weed wrote in The Guardian: “The brands that have not yet caught on to this, and are not thinking about how they will embed environmental and social sustainability within their business model, will not be around in the next 50 years.”

The Sustainable Development Goals

The United Nations offers a list of 17 Sustainable Development Goals for organizations and companies to strive for by 2030. These 17 SDGs, as they are coined, are:

  1. No Poverty
  2. Zero Hunger
  3. Good Health and Well-Being
  4. Quality Education
  5. Gender Equality
  6. Clean Water and Sanitation
  7. Affordable and Clean Energy
  8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
  9. Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  10. Reduced Inequalities
  11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
  12. Responsible Consumption and Production
  13. Climate Action
  14. Life Below Water
  15. Life on Land
  16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions
  17. Partnerships for the Goals

Furthermore, the Huffington Post has provided a list that provides a list of companies already implementing the SDGs within their businesses. Some of the various examples of businesses taking these suggestions to heart are:

Courtesy of EcoHZ
  • Visa bringing financial services to those who suffer from poverty.
  • General Mills providing meals to local food banks.
  • LEGO funding children with the opportunity to play, learn, and create.
  • Cummins investing in solar power.
  • Citi incorporating diversity as a strength of its workforce.
  • Nike using recycled material for their products.
  • Discovery Channel supporting clean oceans.
  • Air BnB helping to provide a place to stay to refugee relief workers.

The United Nations specifies that the 17 SDGs are not obtainable without the help of those in the private sector—more specifically, sustainable businesses. Additionally, the UN offers a segment labeled: The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World which suggests that you, as an individual, can assist the world in achieving these SDGs. Ultimately, these companies are helping to pave the way to make sustainable business the norm.

B Corporations

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In addition to the UN, B Lab has developed a new standard for business called Benefit Corporation, also known as B Corp. B Corps are defined as “for-profit companies certified by the nonprofit B Lab to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. [B Corps are] working together toward one unifying goal: to redefine success in business.” The nonprofit, B Lab, certifies corporations as well as provides a comprehensible list of all the companies identified as B Corps. Moreover, B Lab specifies why each company received a B Corp certification. Each organization is assessed at the “highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability.” B Lab and B Corps alike are striving to use business and the market as a powerful motivator for social change.

The future of business consists of sustainable business practices, whether they like it or not. For those that refuse to adapt, they will ultimately cease to be. Furthermore, not only are consumers looking for sustainable business, so are job-seekers. Therefore, Tom Burk suggests that “young people increasingly seek jobs with businesses that reflect their own priorities” of environmental and social responsibility. So there you have it.

Conclusively, look forward to business for good.

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