Sustainability as a Competitive Advantage

This article was originally published on the E4 Media Advisory web site.

20141007_130945What do these companies have in common?

By any conventional measure – profit, market share, and revenue growth – they’ve each achieved an enviable level of success in highly competitive industries once dominated by larger competitors.

But another thing they share is the unique way they’ve been able to create and continuously build upon that success. They represent the vanguard of a growing number of companies that are redefining what it means to succeed as a business.

The Triple Bottom Line: People. Planet. Profit.

These and others have widened the aperture of their strategic vision to include measuring and managing their performance using social and environmental criteria. Why? Because they know, and their success has proven, that companies who embed sustainability into their strategic and operating ethos are increasingly gaining a competitive advantage over those who continue to narrowly focus on short-term profit alone.

Sustainability is not just the latest business fad du jour. Nor is it just a fringe movement that will always remain on the margins of serious business. It is serious business. And it’s smart business that is quickly going mainstream in ways that promise to reshape the contours of every industry and impact the way every company competes and creates value – including all aspects of the media industry.

That’s why Ogden Publications and Berrett-Koehler Publishers have joined the companies listed above in becoming Certified B Corporations, having passed rigorous third party standards for social, environmental and governance performance.

It’s Not Just About Price Anymore.

  • Consumers are increasingly making purchase decisions that go beyond just price and quality. They increasingly care about what companies stand for, how they source their ingredients and supplies, how they treat their employees, and if they walk their talk.
  • The new generation of workers expects to be able to bring their personal values to work, contributing to something greater than just profit. As a result, triple bottom line companies have a growing advantage in attracting and retaining top talent.
  • Companies are integrating sustainability metrics into their supply chain decisions. Walmart’s Sustainability Index rates suppliers on their sustainability performance. Ben & Jerry’s is now asking each of its supply chain partners to establish baseline performance using B Lab’s Quick Impact Assessment, then works with them on ways to improve their scores.
  • Institutional investors like CalPERS, the nation’s largest public pension fund, are becoming more active in demanding that boards manage for long-term shareholder value by integrating sustainability into corporate governance and strategy.

Is your company on the leading edge of these trends or is it stuck in the false security of a business model that is becoming outmoded and uncompetitive? You can take the B Corp Quick Impact Assessment to see where you stand. The path to sustainability can start wherever you are.

Richard Lawton is Founder of Triple Ethos, a Certified B Corps that helps companies integrate sustainability into its corporate governance practices and strategy.

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