If environmental responsibility is the next big disruptive business force that will change economies and societies, is your business prepared? There is evidence that climate change is real and is driving critical business decisions today. Investors and stakeholders are asking hard questions about environmental responsibility, and many companies are making changes based on the opportunity and the consequences.
For example, one current business book discusses how a leading bottled water was pulled from the British market for failing European Union water quality tests. And at least two major computer companies have made going greener part of their brand advertising. To quote from the book, in “today’s world, no company, big or small, operating locally or globally, in manufacturing or services, can afford to ignore environmental issues.” The consequences of ignoring these critical issues can be loss of revenue and market share, a decrease in employee retention, and even possible damage to your brand from which you might never recover.
Forward-looking business professionals are doing more than changing light bulbs. They are asking profound and important questions such as “How will the environment disrupt my business and industry?” and “What are the threats to my business in the coming changes?” and “What are the opportunities in the coming changes?” In other words, companies are trying to see around the environmental corner, so to speak, to position themselves to win big and do the right thing for the planet.
Climate change and environmental concerns have the disruptive power to change our energy sources, personal consumer habits, business relationships, how we travel, where we live and just about every other aspect of our lives. They certainly have the power to change your business.
The following table shows some of the ways the leading environmental issues can impact business. To be ready for these changes, businesses must have a sustained, continuous approach to managing their environmental sustainability.
Building Sustainability into Your Corporate Culture
Building sustainability into your corporate culture
Will your company be the first to see a golden opportunity, driven by pent-up market demand? Or will you straggle to market late? You might not be able to predict the future, but there are several steps you can take to improve your guesses and see trends early. Here are four tips for building sustainability into your corporate culture. These will help you anticipate and prepare for disruptive environmental change.
Tip No. 1: Assign responsibility
The next energy, environmental and/or climate breakthrough that will disrupt your industry is probably around the corner. But how will you see it if no one is looking? Assign a person or team to be in charge of watching for and reporting on environmental change. Some companies are even creating formal “Green Teams” consisting of employees from across the organization who have a strong interest in the environment and the ability to impact operations on many levels.
Whether you give the assignment to an individual or a team, make sure your company’s management is behind the effort. And make sure you ask for regular reports to be given to the executive team and to other employees.
Tip No. 2: Be prepared to act
Once you identify a looming environmental change that has real business ramifications, what do you do about it? Businesses must become accustomed to viewing environmental issues the same way they view other critical business issues. Get your top corporate talent involved in planning and ask hard questions along the way.
For example, suppose your Green Team brings you an energy management idea that potentially involves much of your company-from production and finance to marketing, public relations and corporate citizenship? Should this be managed by your facilities group or would you elevate it to your ethics and/or finance team? Does the issue deserve or demand executive visibility and tracking? If so, how will that be implemented? Should you engage a third party who can add the expertise and resources that your organization may be lacking?
When preparing to act, you must also create a plan to implement suggestions from your Green Team.
Tip No. 3: Measure performance
Companies measure their performance in many areas. It’s time to also start measuring environmental performance. This is no easy task. Your building systems can measure energy use and efficiency, but you must also factor in how you performed in terms of public relations, legal compliance, competitive standing and other areas that have real business consequences.
You should consider appointing someone in a position of power to monitor progress, measure success and help you correct course, if needed.
Tip No. 4: Be prepared to change
It can be difficult for a company to make changes, move to new ideas and pursue new avenues of growth. But environmental change will be disruptive to your business and industry. The survivors will be the nimble, agile companies that can quickly adjust. Be willing to explore new ways of doing business. Be ready to change course if something doesn’t work.
The impact of environmental change is sweeping across the world, from the living room to the board room. Much of this change may be truly disruptive, altering habits and business models. The exact impact of the environment on business is impossible to predict. But one thing is certain: you won’t see the next big change coming if you aren’t looking for it.
Before entering into her current role at TAC, Brandi held positions as an energy analyst, technical development team leader and solutions manager. She uses her expertise in course creation and instruction by implementing global training programs on solutions, processes and sales. Brandi’s role in process creation and improvement helps her to share best practices between Europe, the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions. Prior to TAC, Brandi worked for Conoco as an environmental engineer, where she gained experience in energy procurement and refining and distribution, focusing heavily on the environmental impact of natural gas production.
Brandi earned her Bachelor of Science degree in environmental engineering from University of Oklahoma and her MBA from Southern Methodist University. Brandi is also a Certified Instructional Systems Designer, Certified Energy Manager and Certified Demand Side Manager. She can be reached at [email protected].