Is there a win win here, does being sustainable environmentally mean a compromise to commercial sustainability, or is environmental sustainability a foundation of commercial sustainability?
Increasingly the latter is becoming the more obvious answer.
As the green debate widens, and business takes a view, the pro’s and cons will get aired, practices will change as best practice evolves and is copied, and our consumption of inputs/unit of output will reduce.
Recently in the UK I saw business and environmental sustainability work hand in hand in the produce supply chain to supermarkets. Barfoots of Botley, a producer of corn, and other vegetables to the supermarkets in the UK has commissioned an anaerobic digester that consumes all their organic waste, turning it into gas to run the processing and packaging plant, with the excess being sold back to the grid. The sludge from the digesters is a great fertiliser for their farms and for sale, and increasingly other local growers are sending their waste to Barfoots for processing, creating an added income stream. As a by product, their major customers love them for it, as it assists their “green credentials” with M&S recently being a star in the Tech magazine Fast Company’s top 50 innovative companies list
Around the web there are lots of stories of businesses that have set out to reduce waste, and the benefits flow. Subaru in the US has spent years reducing waste, and is now the creating no waste at all to go to landfill, but that effort is a part of the effort to ensure that their customers are paying only for what adds value to their experience
Michael Porters January 2011 contribution to the question in the HBR, his notion of “Shared Value” makes a strong case of mutual benefit, and as you look around, it is there to be seen.
My conclusion is that there is a strong correlation, however, when one of our politicians asks us to trust that their policies will lead to this sort of productive investment, just because it suits their political agenda, without any rigorous understanding of the difficulties involved, I get the jitters.