No longer just a matter of legal compliance or philanthropic generosity, enterprise sustainability today is a strategic business imperative. A myriad of converging environmental and societal issues confront today’s nations, cities, communities, businesses, industries, corporate executives and, indeed, each and every individual. In this world of increased instrumentation, interconnectedness and interdependency, there is a conscious and, for many, welcomed move toward the adoption of a more sustainable agenda.
As savvy consumers become increasingly interested in learning more about a business’s commitment and approach to sustainability, corporate policies and programs are being more closely scrutinized. Widespread consumer research and discourse increasingly demand that companies be held accountable for the credibility of the programs they espouse – and the conclusions consumers reach can have a direct impact on an organization’s brand strength and desirability.
Embedding effective sustainability within and among enterprises can provide numerous corporate benefits, including competitive differentiation and positive brand image; cost efficiencies in energy, water and waste management; and potential for gaining share of new and growing market segments.
To ascertain the depth of today’s enterprise sustainability programs and practices, the IBM Institute for Business Value polled and interviewed executives across a wide variety of industries and geographies, asking about their sustainability strategies, plans and initiatives. We found that businesses have actually assimilated a much more strategic view of sustainability, with many executives starting to visualize and realize sustainability as a growth strategy.
Using our study data and analysis, we sought to identify best practices and effective strategies of those companies that are well on their way in their journey toward becoming a sustainable enterprise. We identified three guiding principles – which we have dubbed the three Ss of sustainability – to help companies either improve or spark their sustainability pursuits:
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