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The New Business Imperative, 24 Best Practice Commitments

“Nurturing a greener world through sustainable innovation and development saves money, creates value and helps develop new markets.”
>Ursula Burns, Chairman & CEO, Xerox.

"Companies that value and integrate biodiversity and ecosystem services into their strategic plans are best positioned for the future.”
>Andrew Liveris, Chairman & CEO, The Dow Chemical Company.

Yes, CEOs have assimilated the stakes of sustainable development. As stakeholders increasingly start to care about the planet and those who hurt it, large companies had to start taking the matter seriously in order to keep a good image and keep selling. A lot of what has been implemented can be qualified as Greenwashing, but fortunately, some companies also genuinely pay their debts back to Mother Nature. Let’s examine, throughout the “{{LNK|New Business Imperative: Valuing Natural Capital|}}” report, who the heroes are, and how exactly they proceed.

You don’t get anything for free nowadays… Paradoxically, our planet generates about $72 trillion worth of “free” goods and services each year! And although such resources have been left unaccounted for a long time, top executives are now “awakening” to the imperative of “safeguarding them”. Not because they are nice persons, but because these are vital to long-term business success, and since already two-thirds of our planet’s land & water ecosystem have “significantly (been) degraded” due to human activity, raw materials could become so expensive they would just cancel current profits.

The UN estimates our behavior costs the global economy about $6.6 trillion a year, and KPMG estimated that if companies had to pay for “their own environmental bills”, this would cost them 41 cents for every $1 earned.

As Rio+20 showed, the private sector can no longer afford to wait for governments to react. This is why 24 “pioneering companies” featured in the report have come together to take the lead “in the view that immediate leadership to safeguard well-functioning ecosystems is a business imperative, not a matter of philanthropy.”

They see 4 business benefits to it:

> "Reduce Risks": avoid supply chain disruption due to scarcity of resources, improve relationship with local communities….
> "Cut Costs": increase efficiency, reduce waste, invest in sustainable sourcing practices…
> "Enhance Brand": win trust and loyalty, benchmark, retain top talents, attract investors…
> "Fuel Growth": answer the growing demand for green products & services, educate consumers & create new revenue opportunities…

These business benefits can be reached through a variety of practical actions:

1. “Assess company’s impact & dependencies on ecosystems”, to identify opportunities for cost saving and new revenues.
2. “Put a price on nature’s value”, and calculate the benefits and costs of damage to healthy ecosystems.
3. “Optimize resource-use to minimize environmental degradation”, and increase profit margins while protecting valuable ecosystems, and reduce legal and regulatory risks exposure.
4. “Invest strategically in conservation and restoration”, to reduce climate impact and avoid resources scarcity and harming communities and enhance reputation.
5. “Engage your value chain to bring solutions to scale”, which can have a multiplier effect, helping businesses to realize “meaningful and measurable benefits”.
6. “Innovate in materials, processes and products” to gain competitive advantage and seize new opportunities for growth.
7. “Build natural instead of manmade infrastructure”, often better and cheaper when it comes to protecting against extreme weather, or maintaining resources.
8. "Leverage new natural capital markets and investment tools", via Payments for Ecosystem Services – direct payments to collaborative landowners; regulatory-driven markets of ecosystem credits; private trading of ecosystem credits; purchase of products certified for their positive or neutral impact.
9. "Join forces", to get “meaningful initiatives to scale and raise the bar” across industries.

And because the last of these approaches is not the least, in September 2011, the Corporate Eco Forum and The Nature Conservancy announced their collaboration at the Clinton Global Initiative “to mobilize a critical mass of major companies to initiate projects and investments… to protect and restore green infrastructure around the world”. As a result, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Dell, Disney, Nike, Xerox, Patagonia, Lockheed Martin... and 16 other giants gathered to be part of the 24 rising to the challenge.

To give you a teaser of what you will find in the report:

- By 2013, Coca-Cola commits to implement a new standard for water resource sustainability, and develop a comprehensive source water protection plan for all 900+ of its bottling plants. A long term goal is to return to communities “an amount of water equivalent to what is used in all Coca-Cola beverages”.
- Through 2056, Enterprise rent-a-car commits to underwriting the planting of 50 million trees in national forests around the USA. According to the US Forest Service, in 50 years, one tree can generate $31,250 worth of oxygen - $62,000 worth of air pollution control – recycle $37,000 worth of water – control $31,250 worth of soil erosion.

Would you like to know more about the 24 Best Practice Commitments, I invite you to check out this concise and airy report, which you can download right below, and let us know your opinion about it. What initiative did you find the most attractive?

Download the attached file: The New Business Imperative.pdf

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