People, just like animals, when threatened react in two ways: either run away, or attack. It is quite understandable that we treat the areas unknown to us as a threat and they induce our anxiety. It’s the same way with the mentioned social and environmental changes. They are so dynamic, that even the scientists find it hard to make long-term prognoses regarding their influence on our performance.
World organizations and the biggest global brands have started the attack. The UN used Agenda 2030 (which consists of 17 goals of sustainable growth established by 193 member states) to set a direction for the global growth.
The world’s biggest business players seriously engage in this vision: Nike strives for minimalization of waste and carbon footprint in their production; Pepsi and Coca Cola work on solutions that would protect the drinking water and enable its sustainability; companies involved in retail sale, like IKEA or H&M, are gradually introducing changes into their supply chains via better resource management, waste reduction and extensive relations with suppliers from local markets in order to change the labor markets’ state. Operational improvements are not everything. Let’s take a look at, for example, the car industry, which is steering into the direction of changing its business model from manufacturing cars for sale into a sharing economy.
And what about the rest? Many companies seem to be rejecting that trend, focusing on short-term needs. We think that we cannot afford to implement the sustainable growth into our organization’s strategy. But there’s a wrong presupposition in this approach. We tackle the issue from the aspect of cost, difficulties, excess. Meanwhile, we can still get into the moment when those actions create for us a chance to achieve a business advantage and fit our modus operandi into the new reality – before it’s too late.
The results of the annual survey conducted by EY amongst investors from around the world gives us an accurate image of the business megatrends, and thus – a compass to guide us into the future. In a survey from the year 2017, 68% of the respondents admitted that other aspects than a financial one influence their investment decisions. In view of the survey, the role of the non-financial aspects of businesses efficiency become a key factor in the investors’ decision-making process. We can observe a similar situation in the consumer market, where the customers more and more often treat their purchases as a manifesto of their worldview. People consciously use their wallets to express their support for the companies which operate in accordance to their own values, as well as boycott those that oppose those values. Although we are not used to associating those two things with one another, the sustained growth is followed by money. Ecology is profitable. The WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Program) initiative’s members estimated that striving for a circular economy can lead to an improvement of the trade balance at around 90 billion pound in the whole EU and an employment of another 160 thousands of people in the recovery of materials sector. Another example: Timberland in collaboration with Omni United manufacture tires, who are after use recycled into the soles of the popular shoes. Positive initiatives multiply in the blink of an eye.
A sustainable growth means more than reacting to the peer pressure. It’s a way of looking into the future, defining a new identity for our business, but also the processes that take place in companies. Implementation of the sustainable growth goals into one’s business strategy is a proof of an organizational maturity, as well as a way of entering our product or service into a new life cycle and avoiding regression. The business goals and the sustainable growth goals are not in opposition to each other. There is something that may integrate those two things into one, a powerful tool that will provide benefit both to a company’s interest and the world, too.