Are businesses looking beyond profit?
Many companies, mostly large multinationals, are adopting sustainability programs and delivering annual reports on their progress toward creating a new kind of business. Within this burgeoning movement, sustainable companies give the environment and human rights the same priority as profits. Their goals include protecting the Earth to reduce the effects of climate change while innovating new products. Some of the biggest companies have succeeded in integrating sustainable principles into their corporate DNA and say that it gives them a competitive edge. Is sustainability really making a difference? Can a company go “green” and remain profitable? Will the movement spread or fade away? Many of these companies have been accused in the past of degrading the environment and depleting natural resources, and critics say they are only changing their ways because of pressure from regulators, investors, activists, communities and consumers. Others, often with the help of nonprofits, have voluntarily instituted change across their business model. But so far progress is slow.
Elkington, John, “The Zeronauts: Breaking the Sustainability Barrier,” Routledge, 2012. The creator of the “triple bottom line” looks at a new five-prong paradigm that moves well beyond incremental change to transformation.
Hart, Stuart L., “Capitalism at the Crossroads: The Unlimited Business Opportunities in Solving the World's Most Difficult Problems,” Wharton School Publishing, 2005. The creator of the Sustainable Entrepreneurship MBA at the University of Vermont explains the history of sustainability and its possibilities.
McDonough, William, and Michael Braungart, “Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things,” North Point Press, 2002. The originators of circular or closed-loop production describe a seminal process of eliminating waste altogether.
Winston, Andrew S., “The Big Pivot: Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World,” Harvard Business Review Press, 2014. A business strategist gives a blueprint for how to incorporate sustainability in a business context.
Bardelline, Jonathan, “How UPS makes the business case for sustainability projects,” Greenbiz.com, May 6, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Davis, Grant, “The Triple Bottom Line Goal of Sustainable Business,” Entrepreneur, March 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Kaye, Leon, “The Business Case for Sustainability Is Becoming Easier to Make,” TriplePundit, March 15, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Kelly-Detwiler, Peter, “The Upside and Waging Peace Through Commerce: William McDonough Wants Us to Design Our Way to Abundance,” Forbes, Nov. 20, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Kiron, David, et al, “Sustainability's Next Frontier: Walking the Talk on the Sustainability Issues That Matter Most,” MIT Sloan Management Review, Dec. 15, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Rajaram, Dhiraj, “Making the Business Case for Sustainability,” The Harvard Business Review, May 2, 2011, http://tinyurl.com/
Scott, Ryan, “The Bottom Line of Corporate Good,” Forbes.com, Sept. 14, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/
Reports and Studies
“The Business Case for Sustainability,” International Finance Corp., 2012, http://tinyurl.com/
“Planning for a Sustainable Future,” National Association for Environmental Management, 2012, http://tinyurl.com/
Makower, Joel, et al., “The State of Green Business 2014,” GreenBiz and Trucost, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
The Next Step
Conti, David, “Center for Sustainable Shale Development aims to raise standards,” Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jan. 11, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Leinaweaver, Jeff, “Might new financial tools translate ESG data into real-world loss and profit?” The Guardian (U.K.), Nov. 25, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Roston, Eric, “Sustainable Companies Want to Be Transparent—But Not Too Transparent,” Bloomberg, Feb. 11, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Doyle, Alister, “IKEA may tighten carbon rules to protect environment,” Reuters, Oct. 13, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Elgin, Ben, “No More Faking It: Companies Ditch Green Credits, Clean Up Instead,” Bloomberg Businessweek, Dec. 17, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Strom, Stephanie, “Walmart Aims to Go Greener on Food,” The New York Times, Oct. 6, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Kozlov, Klara, “New survey shows FTSE 100 companies have increased charitable giving,” The Guardian (U.K.), Aug. 14, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Seervai, Shanoor, “Indian Companies and Charities Aren't Ready for New Giving Law,” The Wall Street Journal, April 11, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Shwab, Klaus, “Business in a Changing World,” Foreign Affairs, Jan. 6, 2015, http://tinyurl.com/
Grene, Sophia, The bottom line is a sustainability one,” Financial Times (U.K), Sept. 21, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
Kukil, Bora, “New Report On Global Corporate Sustainability Practices Shows Talkers Outnumber The Doers,” International Business Times, Dec. 18, 2013, http://tinyurl.com/
Miller, Joe, “War on waste makes sustainable business more profitable,” BBC, May 19, 2014, http://tinyurl.com/
American Sustainable Business Council
401 New York Ave., N.W., Suite 1225, Washington, D.C. 20005
A national advocacy group that works for a sustainable economy.
CDP (formerly the Carbon Discovery Project)
132 Crosby St., 8th Floor, New York, NY 10012
Major nonprofit that works with companies and other stakeholders to transform business to prevent climate change.
Ceres (the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies)
99 Chauncy St., 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02111
Nonprofit for investors and businesses in sustainability that has numerous studies about industries, company rankings, and sustainability advice.
350 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza, Oakland, CA 94612
A varied and thorough source of news, reports and events.
International Institute for Sustainable Development
61 Portage Ave. E., 6th Floor, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada R3BOY4
International public policy research and lobbying institute for sustainable development.
Arizona State University Global Institute of Sustainability, P.O. Box 873511, Tempe, AZ 85287-3511
Trade association seeking a scientific foundation for innovation to improve consumer product sustainability.
Sustainable Manufacturer Network
833 Featherstone Rd., Rockford, IL 61107
Industry association that promotes “cost-effective, environmentally and socially responsible manufacturing.”
U.S. Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment
1660 L St., N.W., Suite 306, Washington, DC 20036
Association for professionals, firms, institutions and organizations engaged in sustainable, responsible and impact investing.