The Sustainable Future in Business
by Emily Lee
2020 was meant to be the start of a new decade, a key moment to begin writing at the start of a fresh, blank page. Yet, I don’t think anyone imagined how the story of 2020 turned out. Life changed for everyone, lockdowns and masks were the new norm; it was a year of fear and uncertainty. Nevertheless, it was a year which showed the vulnerable state of the world. If 2020 taught us anything at all, it is that we cannot solve an issue by working individually. This has been demonstrated in the business landscape where the rise of globalisation and technology has transformed businesses into efficient international operations. However, this development has come at the cost of our environment.
The need for sustainable practices in businesses has never been more urgent. The COVID-19 pandemic is a testament to the fact that we cannot continue to live without making changes to the way we live and interact with each other. The graph outlines the trend in global surface temperatures. A 2017 report showed that the change in global temperatures over the past two decades has been attributed to just 100 fossil fuel producers being a source of over 70% of greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, these companies have shaped the public narrative by lobbying government intervention and creating advertising campaigns to mislead consumers as part of their business strategies to continue extracting and burning fossil fuels.
Businesses focused on accruing profit solely for their shareholders and investors is an old sentiment. Both businesses and consumers are opening up to a new and urgent shift that must be implemented in order to address the issues that climate change presents. These models include doughnut economics spoken in Kate Raworth’s book where she argues that constant growth does not equate to prosperity, and instead redefines success when the world can find equilibrium, meeting the basic social needs of everyone without exploiting Earth’s resources. Alternatively, another model often utilised is conscious capitalism where the benefits of capitalism combined with the human consciousness movement creates a business model that serves the interests of all stakeholders, not just investors.
These different models outline a new way that our economy and the business entities that exist can function. Sustainability in business is not just about employing green marketing strategies but as Professor Knut Haanaes puts it, is about ‘creating long-term value by taking into consideration how a given organisation operates in the ecological, social and economic environment.’ Furthermore, consumer demand and support for sustainable products and companies that uphold corporate social responsibility and focus on the triple bottom line has increased. A survey conducted by CouriersPlease found that 9 in 10 Australian consumers are more likely to purchase ethical and sustainable products. The growth for this demand has seen businesses transform to increase their transparency and improve their practices.
Nowadays, there are various applications that businesses can use to highlight their sustainable practices and help consumers make informed decisions. In the fashion industry,consumers can easily find whether a company has sustainable practices by using the Good on You site and app which gives brands a rating depending on three factors; their impact on the people, the planet, and the animals. Another way to support sustainable businesses is if they are a certified B Corporation which are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. One example is Flora & Fauna which is a platform selling only sustainable products. Their most important purpose is to be kind, encompassing understanding with the planet, the animals, and the people. This new standard for sustainability within business is helping to redefine what success is.
As business students, there are a number of pathways and industries that we may be involved in. Wherever we decide to venture, sustainability should be a common thread that ignites business transformation. The openings of new jobs such as sustainability consultants and analysts are proof that there is a need to make a positive impact on this world. But, sustainability does not only belong to those with these titles, but all of us. We can all do our part to ensure that one day in the future, sustainability practices will become common practice - a new way of life and success. Imagine a world that is fully sustainable, where we have finally solved the issue of climate change. Let’s create that path.
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Doughnut Economics: https://www.honestlymodern.com/doughnut-economics-hits-the-sweet-spot-on-sustainable-growth/
Flora and Fauna founder, Julie Mathers