The connections between increased revenue and investment in sustainability programs are complicated.
Even today, sustainability professionals continue to “make the business case” for sustainability.
It’s true that sustainability programs require an investment—in staff, in reporting, in communications, in change management—and the case for making smart investments for maximum results must continue to be made.
However, as we enter 2016, we should no longer need to make the case for sustainability itself.
Although directly linked financial benefits are sometimes difficult to identify, research suggests companies that fully integrate sustainability principles and practices into their strategic operations do outperform peers financially.
The counterargument is that these same companies are just more strategic overall, sustainability or not, so they will perform well simply because of a culture of innovation, risk mitigation, long-term planning, and thought-leadership.
The fact is, as we enter 2016, a company can’t even be considered a strong, strategic player without sustainability being one of its core principles. Sustainability has made it into the short list of core principles of true strategic leadership. In other words, you can’t have one without the other.
Case in Point: The Food & Beverage Industry
Pure Strategies, a sustainability consulting firm focused on the food and beverage industry, recently published results of a survey of major global food and beverage companies.
In the 2015 report, 18% more food and beverage companies, 100% of companies surveyed, are developing or implementing sustainability programs (from 82% in 2013), and 46% of the companies reported increased sales (up from 19% in 2013).
What the report tells us is:
- More than ever before, food and beverage companies are implementing sustainability programs based on best practices of the companies that have already implemented sustainability programs
- As the best-practice modeling increases throughout the industry, more food and beverage companies are reporting increased sales
- The leaders of these food and beverage companies are tying industry-wide sustainability best practices directly to their increased sales
The food and beverage survey shows how sustainability, as a core strategic focus, is permeating the very operating principles of an entire industry – and a significant percentage of companies are making more money in the process.
Using food and beverage as an example, any company looking to become a long-term leader in any sector should look seriously at its approach to sustainability.
Sustainability must truly be integrated into a company’s core strategic plans, or it will likely get left behind.
If your company looking to integrate industry best practice planning into its sustainability strategy, a great place to start is with a sustainability assessment and peer benchmarking report.