Sustainability is nothing more than good business in a changing environment

Originally Printed in Canada’s National Post (see link below)

The world is changing. Resources are becoming increasingly scarce; safe drinking water is in short supply; even our climate is changing, and, with the advent of social media, businesses are being watched unlike at any time in the past.

Companies that adapt their business practices with these new realities in mind will find opportunities to flourish, while companies that take a “wait and see” approach will find that change has passed them by as they struggle to survive.

Future success

Future business success will hinge upon a more strategic and holistic operational view; a wider range of impacts must be considered.

A paradigm shift is needed in the way companies do business; leaders must look at both problems and opportunities with new eyes and find solutions that are consistent with our changing realities.

Companies and their employees must change their decision-making processes.

Corporate assumptions must change.  New and different questions must be asked. Who or what will be affected by our business decision? Are we taking a risk by sourcing products from such an unstable region?

Or, perhaps, the question is based on the price of energy: Is our global supply chain at risk from rising oil prices or a carbon redistribution tax that supports non-polluting energy sources while taxing ones that contribute to climate change and pollution?

Companies and their employees must change their decision-making processes based on a new vision that considers environmental and social harm.

Culture shift

Companies that are leading the way are undergoing a shift in corporate culture; this is no easy task.

The biggest challenge for corporate sustainability is that most people are neither prepared nor supported in their organizations to think innovatively.  Metrics that support old style thinking are still the norm in organizations.

Sadly, little will change until people are given an incentive that benefits them directly, or until the new culture of the company is so deeply embedded into all aspects of the organization, that not taking a holistic view would be a glaring cultural misstep.

Fostering a student mentality

There’s little doubt that sustainability is the best business strategy of our time. But it won’t be a single technological solution that saves us. Rather, it’s an issue of human capital being supported and nurtured to think innovatively about our problems. It’s about people in organizations being rewarded for trying and sometimes failing, but always feeling supported for daring to think outside the box.

Organizations must develop a culture of problem solving and support for unconventional thinking. 

Organizations that develop a culture of problem solving and support unconventional thinking will be best suited to thrive in the sustainability era. The real corporate winners will be the ones who develop their human capital, because it will be those sustainability change agents who identify, imagine and implement the technological and business solutions.

A united vision

We are blessed in Canada with incredible natural resources and an educated population; we have all the building blocks to be a global sustainability leader.

With a little bit of vision and a shift towards more holistic thinking, we have the ability to create high paying jobs that export sustainable solutions around the world.

At the end of the day, sustainability is nothing more than good business in a changing environment.

Originally printed in Canada’s National Post – June 2012- Green Innovations Section – Pg. 6
Brad Zarnett
is the Founder and Director of the Toronto Sustainability Speaker Series (TSSS).  The organization is widely recognized as Canada’s premiere forum for dialogue and problem solving among sustainability professionals. Each year over 1000 sustainability change agents attend TSSS events to exchange ideas, to network and to be inspired by leading companies that have integrated sustainability into their business practices.