Sustainability Visions: It's about enlightened self-interest, not altruism

IBM's Caroline Taylor explains why sustainability delivers on the triple bottom line.

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Last Updated: 24 Sep 2010
It used to be that business regarded CSR as a nice-to-have extra. But many corporates’ efforts to market themselves as sustainable were soon disregarded by discerning consumers as greenwashing. These days, it’s the businesses that put sustainability at the very core of their business planning, vision and strategy that win out. At last week's Start summit, companies such as M&S, Kingfisher and IBM all spoke about the environmental, social and economic benefits of sustainability.

Caroline Taylor, IBM’s VP for marketing in the UK, spoke to MT about the fact that the corporate debate on sustainability has moved on from altruism to enlightened self-interest based on the triple line. ‘You look at a lot of organizations out there like M&S and B&Q – very high profile, very sustainable organizations, and you can absolutely see that it has a benefit to their bottom line,’ she says. ‘It will help you boost your business, increase your top line and therefore your bottom line, and it will help you reduce costs. Typically economically efficient actions like reducing the amount of electricity you use have an environmental benefit. But it’s going to save you money, too, which is a pretty powerful thought for most leaders.’

Perhaps one of the most important conclusions from the nine-day summit was the importance of the leader in making change happen. ‘You have to get the vision right,’ explains Taylor. ‘If you’ve got the vision very clearly set, and you really lead from the front, then you’ll really bring people with you. You’ll drive the behaviour changes that are absolutely critical to make this happen.’ So, at a time when everyone is searching for ways to tighten their belts, becoming more sustainable is a very wise path to future prosperity.

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