That’s the conclusion of ‘A New Mindset for Corporate Sustainability’, a research paper commissioned by BT and Cisco and put together by six academics in the UK, US, Spain, China and Singapore. They argue that when business leaders have the vision to embed sustainability throughout their organisation, it becomes more innovative – and that means bigger profits.
They’re basing this on a series of case studies from around the world, some of which are more convincing than others. Marks & Spencer is praised for its ‘knowledge interchange with suppliers to help it share best practices on sustainability’ – we’re not sure what this is exactly, but we’re pretty confident it didn’t help it flog any more blouses this Christmas, judging by its trading figures.
However the report also points to businesses like Hyflux, a water company that has become Singapore’s largest by exploiting the demand for alternative water sources, and Cemex, a Mexican cement manufacturer that now provides low-income families with credit and support as well as cement. So sustainability can translate into profits, even for established businesses.
And we mustn’t forget our favourite example: the report itself. Apparently it involved no international travel, thanks to the use of Cisco’s whizz-bang TelePresence teleconferencing system – a sustainable business practice that led to a ‘unique opportunity’ for collaboration and innovation. In other words, the brilliance of this paper definitively proves the brilliant point of this paper (or is it vice-versa?).
Nonetheless, we’re all for its central tenet: that a focus on sustainability can pay dividends for businesses in the modern world. So even though the academics have decided to call their new approach S2AVE (Shareholder and Social Added Value with Environmental Restoration), we’re not going to hold it against them.