Corporate sustainability has come a long way over the past few years. No longer a minor part of some middle management performance goal, the concept of corporate sustainability has reached the rarified chambers of senior management, including CEOS and Boards of Directors. Sustainability now not only includes environmental concerns, but societal and ethical ones as well, all counter balanced with the economic realities of business. Companies like Dow Jones have published sustainability indexes for certain businesses, and those companies on the index are vigorously reviewed to ensure they meet the standards set forth in the index. This change in the corporate environment has led to the inclusion of sustainability goals in business plans and market strategy. Leaders in forward thinking companies know that sustainability is a process that require commitment and vision.
Companies rely on service providers to help them meet many of those sustainability goals. Recycled paper, biodegradable products, energy efficient lighting, and community reinvestment are just a few of the many possible elements in sustainability initiatives. As sustainability initiatives grow more complex and intertwined, it has become apparent that companies must rely on many different service providers, and evaluate them not only on costs, but also on the product or service itself. The hard fact is that not many companies can justify a 300% increase in supplier cost to help with a sustainability initiative, however, it has become increasingly more common for companies to award contracts or purchase services from a more sustainable supplier even if the cost is slightly higher than a less sustainable choice.
This growing desire to contract with more sustainable service providers is helping change the face of business as we know it. Recognizing the true cost to the environment and to society, and adjusting for that cost in the purchase of the product or service, is continuing to drive changes in the fundamental economics of business.
Gary Lundstedt is Executive Director of Ingenium, an environmental partnership company, dedicated to providing unique and sustainable solutions for the management of hazardous and non-hazardous waste.