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To be sustainable, companies may need to change their products, processes, and business models to operate within defined economic, environmental, and social thresholds.
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It’s possible that humankind has created complex, systemic problems that exceed our human capacity to solve them. Some companies, particularly the tech giants, are recognizing this possibility and looking to AI as a tool for solving environmental and social problems. One of these companies is Microsoft. In December 2017, it committed $50 million to its new “AI for Earth” program to fund innovators who are making progress in four critical areas — climate change, water, agriculture, and biodiversity.
It’s not smart to base any part of your strategy on what you see in the rear-view mirror — and that’s particularly true when you develop strategies for navigating modern, thorny environmental and social challenges. The norms and expectations about how companies manage sustainability issues are shifting fast: Just six years ago, only 20% of the S&P 500 companies produced sustainability reports, while by 2016, 82% did. Change is coming to business — and executives need to adjust.
When an ethics scandal damaged the reputation of Swedish telecom giant Telia and led to the ouster of its top managers, the company’s incoming leadership took a radical new turn: Changing from a corporate strategy with sustainability programs to a sustainable strategy.
Business needs to show leadership in sustainability as it never has before. As regulations and guidelines loosen, some organizations may give in to the temptation to let profit motives soften their own environmental policies. To do so would be shortsighted — and not only for the most obvious reasons.
It’s only natural that a beer company would be concerned about water. It takes five liters of water, on average, to manufacture one liter of beer. When SABMiller mapped its water footprint and found that it took 45 liters of water to produce one liter of its beer in the Czech Republic, and 155 liters in South Africa, the company changed its water practices to make its beer more sustainable. An interview with SABMiller’s senior vice president of sustainable development explains how they did it.
Mike Roberts, the former president and chief operating officer of McDonald’s, is now heading up Lyfe Kitchen, an organic, healthy restaurant that plans to expand to hundreds of locations throughout the U.S.
At Dell, the sustainability team, working with suppliers and recyclers, has developed new compostable packaging materials made from bamboo and mushrooms. As John Pflueger, Principal Environmental Strategist, says, “It’s absolutely amazing.” Long a “pain point” for customers, the new lighter and compostable packaging is a big step forward, improving many sustainability metrics.
We asked: Are organizations spending more on sustainability? Does it merit more attention from the top? More than 4,700 managers responded. Here’s what they told us.
By maximizing recycling through waste audits, setting up a recycling protocol at manufacturing plants and implementing paperless procedures, beverage manufacturer Sunny Delights has achieved zero waste to landfill — way before other companies.
There has been “nothing less than a revolution in water use” in the U.S. writes Charles Fishman in the new “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” with companies now tracking their water use, reporting it publically, and reimagining it.
From repositioning an entire organization to rethinking design approaches, supply chains and government collaborations, sustainability-related concerns are prompting many businesses to make major shifts. Here are mini-case glimpses of Nike, Rio Tinto, GE, Better Place and Wal-Mart.
Not all growth is good. An analysis of Fortune Global 500 companies shows that the businesses that grew within the limits of their growth corridors performed far better than others — even those that grew faster.
Meeting the sustainability challenge will require the kind of cross-sector collaboration for which there is still no real precedent. It must be co-created by various stakeholders by interweaving work in three realms: the conceptual, the relational and the action-driven.
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