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Why Companies Need to Step Up and Lead the Sustainability Agenda

[fa icon="calendar"] 19-Jul-2015 11:30:00 / by Iliyana Stareva


In June 1992, over 30,000 people and more than 100 heads of states gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the largest environmental conference that became known as the Earth Summit.

The goal was to respond to the pressing global environmental challenges and to agree on a plan for tackling issues such as biodiversity, climate change, pollution and unsustainable production, extinction of resources, forest management, population growth, consumption rates and poverty.

The result: a declaration of 27 principles for nations to commit to becoming more sustainable. These are still adhered to today and influence political and business decisions.

But how far have we come?

Call me a pessimist, but not as far as we could have.

Sustainability Agenda not on the Corporate Radar

A recent survey by GlobeScan/SustainAbility has tracked and analysed the evolution of the sustainability agenda and what progress the leaders and institutions most responsible for driving it forward have made since the Earth Summit.

The one thing that stuck in my mind after reviewing the infographic with the results (see below) is that corporates and businesses have not advanced enough.

Let’s not forget that sustainable development is about making conscious decisions today so that with our actions we don't compromise the future of the next generations. And businesses have a huge role to play here - we live off of multiple small and big business transactions daily.

But did you know that many global organisations are larger and richer than entire countriesApple, for example, will shock you.

So, how can we expect governments to lead the sustainable agenda? It’s corporations that need to step up too! Because there’s much more to life and business than just money and profit.  

What’s the problem then?

Well, it’s the need for a transformation.

Business Transformation for Sustainability

Sustainable development is not possible without making sustainability part of a company’s core business model. That’s not just my words, but anyone’s who understands the sustainability agenda, and is also one of the key results of this survey as well as of the recent research The State of Sustainability 2015 by the Ethical Corporation – for 82% of corporate respondents embedding sustainability throughout the organisation is a top issue.

However, it's too complicated, too expensive, too time-consuming and potentially loss-facing at least in the beginning to implement it an organisation and completely revamp the "we are so used to and comfortable with" status quo.

But it’s not impossible! Look at Unilever, Patagonia or Marks & Spencer, who are making some significant progress towards fully integrating sustainability into their business strategy.

And it’s not bad for business!

According to the Ethical Corporation’s research, 53% link sustainability with increased revenue, while 67% of corporate respondents say it is driving savings. Despite these successes, companies at the moment are just scratching the surface of sustainability gains.

Looking ahead, creating a competitive advantage from sustainability should become the biggest priority, because it's the biggest opportunity.

Want to have a future? Then companies need to start leading the sustainability agenda more. 


Topics: Sustainability

Iliyana Stareva

Written by Iliyana Stareva

Iliyana Stareva is the author of Inbound PR - the book that is transforming the PR industry. She's also a keynote speaker and a consultant in inbound and digital for fast-growing companies and agencies. Currently, Iliyana is Chief of Staff to the EMEA President at ServiceNow. Before that, she held global and EMEA-wide positions at Cisco and HubSpot. She is also certified by the PMI as a Project Management Professional (PMP)®. In her free time, you can find Iliyana writing for her blog, dancing salsa or travelling the world.

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