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How sustainability can actually improve profitability

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One of the most common myths about sustainability is its association with higher costs. Many businesses tend to assume that what is sustainable would cost more. It's led to the misconception of viewing sustainability as a luxury that only a select few could afford. Even during talks and webinars that are supposed to encourage participants to adopt and embrace sustainability, I have seen panellists unknowingly reinforce this false narrative.

In fact, I'd argue that the opposite is true.

As the recipient of the United Nations SDG Pioneer for Circular Economy, I pioneered an ecosystem business model that helps global hospitality chains, airlines, cruise liners and major corporations improve profits by embracing sustainability.

Sustainability is essential for business continuity, and when a business embraces sustainability correctly, it not only lowers the costs of doing business but it creates a powerful avenue to grow revenue and attract like-minded partners who could open doors to new possibilities.

Before going deeper into each of these benefits, it's important to first define what sustainability is. According to the United Nations, sustainability means “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."

This means sustainability shouldn't be limited to environmental factors. It's holistic. It should encompass financial and social considerations, ensuring affordability and driving a positive, long-term impact on local communities.

Here's how sustainability can improve profitability for your business.

 

1. It can actually lower costs.

Part of assessing how your business can become more sustainable includes conducting a materiality analysis. This means assessing what factors are important to your business and identifying the avenues in which you can lower costs. Common considerations are lowering material use without sacrificing functionality, lowering distance between manufacturing sites and customers, as well as lowering unnecessary costs due to excessive packaging. These translate to more efficient use of resources and lower costs.

 

2. It's important to younger generations.

There's a strong affinity between millennials and Gen-Z and sustainability, and that's another strong benefit, given that these generations are now the largest group of consumers. Unlike previous generations who are focused solely on physical goods, millennials and Gen-Z value the meaning and purpose beyond the physical. This means patronizing a business or buying their product becomes a personal expression of their support towards certain causes they value.

 

3. It helps create collaborations and partnerships.

Last but not least, advancing sustainability can lead to collaborations and partnerships with other stakeholders to achieve more than a single company could on its own. Leadership in sustainability sends a strong signal to the market, which attracts like-minded partners and opens new doors and opportunities.

For example, in the course of my work, beyond our close partnerships with some of the world's largest brands, we also actively engage governments and intragovernmental organizations to ensure that the solutions we develop are in line with government agendas. This subsequently leads to strategic collaborations with global financial and educational institutions as well as professional bodies in advocating for sustainability—which leads to more partnerships with even more global brands.

See how opening one door can lead to even more and larger, strategic opportunities for your company? This is a key strategy that helps you become more agile in overcoming ever-increasing challenges and ever-changing market dynamics. As Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change."

Sustainability is a business advantage. It helps to lower costs of doing business, increase revenue and create opportunities from collaborations and partnerships. There is no better time to embrace sustainability than now, especially when the market, regulators and consumers are demanding it.

 

This article was first published on Forbes (27 Jul 2022). 

Posted 10 March 2023

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