Corporate sustainability

Sustainability in the corporate world is a holistic approach to business. Here corporations aim to live in harmony with nature, improve the communities in which they operate and behave in a socially, culturally and economically responsible manner. Sustainable corporations take a long-term approach to development with consideration for the generations to come. It’s an evolution beyond the business practices that have resulted in climate change, destruction of natural habitats and social and economic mayhem.

Sustainability is profitable

For corporate sustainability to be viable, it must be profitable. Many corporations are beginning to see recycling as a way to increase profits. Retrofits which reduce their energy consumption have good ROIs as the corporations save money on lower utilities bills. Methods implemented to reduce their waste and carbon output will also save on carbon taxes.

When Quantas Air found themselves burdened by the high cost of jet fuel and carbon emissions taxes leveled by Europe, Australia and New Zealand, they decided to take a more sustainable approach to air travel. Their corporate sustainability solution; used cooking oil from fast food restaurants. The airline ran its first commercial biofuel flight of an airbus A330 from Sydney to Adelaide in April 2012. The airbus utilized a 50/50 mixture of jet fuel and recycled cooking oil. The airline hopes to reduce its carbon emissions by 60% with the biofuel planes and slash its running costs.

It’s not only the savings that help sustainable corporations to improve their bottom line, it’s also the overwhelming support they enjoy as consumers increasingly opt for green products and companies they see as socially and environmentally responsible. Environmentally friendly products and services and fair trade items are gaining traction in the marketplace.

Networking helps industry achieve sustainability

Toronto-based organization, Summerhill, endeavors to improve corporate sustainability and educates the public on how to make environmentally smarter choices. Corey Diamond, Summerhill CEO explains: “Summerhill works with forward-thinking companies and organizations to effectively address complex environmental problems through the creation of innovative strategies and initiatives that move the market toward sustainability.” Their most successful venture to date has been ‘Retire your Ride’.

Cars made prior to 1995 produce a much higher percentage of pollution than newer models. In an effort to accelerate the retirement of these older cars in favor of more fuel efficient options, or different modes of transport altogether, Summerhill launched an ambitious program. Car owners across Canada could register online or call in and have their cars picked up within 48 hours. They would receive a check of $300 and discounts at dealers who offered more fuel efficient vehicles.

Summerhill also partnered with transit companies and bike companies to provide additional incentives to those who no longer wanted to own a vehicle. With the biggest environmental campaign in Canadian history, they retired 138 000 vehicles in just two years. The program raised $3,588,755 for charity and prevented the release of 47,154 tonnes of carbon monoxide (CO)¹ and 4,906 tonnes (VOCs & NOx)¹ into the atmosphere.

The success of the program has resulted in the independent adoption of the scheme by large automobile manufacturers like GM and Ford. It has also enabled structural change in the recycling business as only recyclers who adhered to code were invited to participate in the program. This elevated many recyclers to a higher environmental standard and encouraged government to standardize recycling codes which are to be adopted in the near future.

The way forward

As the two-pronged benefit of reduced costs and increased customer appeal makes sustainability more attractive to corporations, many are seeking ways to reduce their carbon footprint and make products that are more environmentally friendly. From energy reducing retrofits to renewable energy sources to sustainable materials and green transportation, the face of industry is slowly changing.

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