Sustainability is on the tip of every tongue these days. But what makes something sustainable? The UN World Commission on Environment and Development says, "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." Sustainable initiatives reduce environmental impact and improve social equity with inclusive governance that positively impacts communities. ECOSHIFT re-thinks sustainability with inclusive, transparent initiatives.
Search "what is sustainability," and the results are as numerous as they are diverse. Broadly, sustainability is balancing the environment, social equity, and economy. Inclusive, transparent policies demonstrate a commitment to creating a sustainable future for our planet and people.
The modern consumer wants to know a business' sustainability score. It helps us support companies and products that align with our values and promote sustainability.
Sustainability does not mean lower profitability for companies and industries. Sustainable companies attract and retain socially conscious talent. For example, brands that measure, report, and improve their ESG earn better reputations and heightened trust—the net result: increased sales. Investing in sustainable businesses can yield positive returns.
As the debate over which measurement is best amplifies, we believe the benchmark framework is the 17-point United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
What Are the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals?
In 2015, all members of the United Nations agreed to support the Sustainable Development Goals. Today, these are the guiding principles for effective sustainability policy. Why? "They recognize that ending poverty and other deprivations must go hand-in-hand with strategies that improve health and education, reduce inequality, and spur economic growth – all while tackling climate change and working to preserve our oceans and forests."
Documenting how your business identifies, records, measures, and reports sustainability metrics demonstrate your commitment to building a sustainable future. Actions speak louder than words. Sustainability now tops the list for consumers. Many are willing to pay more for products that align with personal values.
Who Measures and Regulates Sustainability Claims?
With the rise in sustainability policy statements, it is fair to ask who measures and regulates them. How do we reliably evaluate sustainability initiatives?
So far, it has been left to companies themselves to define their sustainability platform. But as we have seen with repeated reports of greenwashing, broad statements of intent do not equal action. Opaque claims often mask reality and fail to deliver real-life results.
And this is where the problems start. What seems simple is, in fact, complex and confusing.
There are more than enough examples of the "do as I say, not as I do" school of sustainability. A recent report says a closer look at 25 of the world's largest companies with net-zero emissions pledges shows that most of those goals aren't what they seem. Only three companies "clearly commit to deep decarbonisation of over 90% of their full value chain emissions by their respective target years of their headline pledges." It's time to re-think sustainability.
Initiatives in the EU and other nations to regulate sustainability have received mixed reviews. The EU Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism proposal "to introduce CO2 emissions costs on imports of steel, cement, fertilisers, aluminium and electricity, a move aimed at protecting European industry from being undercut by cheaper goods made in countries with weaker environmental rules," has been called protectionist.
And the recent United States Security and Exchange Commission's vote to approve a framework to measure and regulate publicly traded businesses is challenged for focusing on the environment at the exclusion of social and governance.
As we move forward, there will be more debate and disagreement regarding regulatory initiatives. But the UN SDGs, already agreed upon by member nations, provide an inclusive, functional framework to build a sustainable future.
It's time to integrate sustainability into business operations – and show its value to stakeholders. At ECOSHIFT, we re-think sustainability with inclusive, transparent Initiatives.
The Rise of the Sustainability/ESG Consultant
The increase in sustainability/ESG consultancies, apps and other tools helps businesses meet sustainability goals. Investors, individuals, activists, and regulators demand proactive, community-level commitment and accountability.
Charting the path to improved sustainability benefits businesses and cultivates a culture of sustainability. Defending the environment, advancing social issues, and improving corporate governance is vital to long-term competitiveness.
But focus on net-zero and carbon footprint excludes critical components – the "S" and the "G." Quartz reports regulation "means a gold rush for carbon accountants." Opponents argue that focusing on the carbon footprint, energy consumption, supply chain, and customer emissions omits critical elements of the UN SDGs for larger companies.
Regulators, industry, and consultants must avoid cherry-picking elements, adopt an all-inclusive approach, and re-think sustainability.
What Prevents Sustainable Development
Sustainable development is not only a noble goal; it is necessary to save our planet. But a variety of factors prevent sustainable development from happening.
Development models often focus on economic growth over individual rights, welfare, and the environment. The lack of official policy means a lack of research into solutions and a failure to mandate solutions.
If humans do not change our behaviour, sustainability will not be achieved. This is where the "S" and "G" come into play. While businesses blow their environmental horns, many have deplorable social and governance records. Social inequities and misguided governance, combined with a lack of incentives to pursue sustainable development, mean big business continues to prey on poor people and nations for cheap resources, labour and tax breaks.
Where there's a will, there's a way. Or so the old saying goes. But a lack of political will hinders sustainability initiatives.
The dearth of data tracking sustainability and ESG means decision-makers do not have the information to enable more robust monitoring and evaluation of sustainable development strategies. To begin the improvement process and increase effectiveness, we must assess developmental projects' socio-economic impacts, not solely the outcome.
The time has come to overcome institutional and trade barriers and re-think sustainability with inclusive, transparent Initiatives.
How to Promote Sustainable Development
Promoting your sustainability initiatives can have far-reaching positive impacts on a business. Solid and transparent policies help companies chart a path that aligns with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Today, businesses and brands that measure and report sustainability metrics are reaping the benefits.
Businesses should not underestimate the consumer, who looks for brands that align with personal values. They want to purchase from and work for companies that sincerely support sustainability. While most say they care about sustainability, Millennials, GenX and GenY care the deepest. By 2029, Generations Y and Z will make up 72 percent of the world's workforce.
Sustainability must tie in with the long-term strategy. The impacts need to be measurable to track and demonstrate progress. It can start with baby steps. As you grow corporate sustainability momentum—every positive input counts. Incremental improvements resonate with your employees, consumers, and investors. A long game ensures the health and viability of your business.
Perhaps the most significant contribution to promoting sustainability is a commitment to transparency.
The ECOSHIFT Approach to Sustainability
Supporting UN SDGs benefits the environment, social equity, the communities we work with and our planet. Businesses that establish criteria to measure performance against these global standards and work with community partners and other stakeholders demonstrate their commitment to taking sustainability seriously.
Our approach to re-think sustainability is to be accountable for conducting activities responsibly and aligning with the expectations of communities and other stakeholders.
An essential element is to partner with businesses that steward sustainability. Social measures assessing the fairness, transparency, and effectiveness of interactions with communities, stakeholders and partners, including suppliers and contractors, are critical.
Finally, effective, inclusive, transparent governance lets everyone monitor progress, improve equitable decision-making goals, and determine the effectiveness of internal controls in meeting commitments to stakeholders and shareholders and obligations to regulators.
A company can maintain sustainable growth by pursuing responsible production in cooperation with community partners and other stakeholders. It creates shareholder value and reinforces the significance of current and future business for stakeholders and shareholders. Re-think sustainability with inclusive, transparent initiatives.
By Tim MORCH, www.timmorch.com