Corporate Sustainability – Risk or Opportunity?

Simply stated, Sustainability relates to our impact on the environment, i.e. social responsibility.  Sustainability issues are on the minds of consumers; and continue to be a focus of the government and community groups.  How your company handles these issues could be a source of positive press or reputational risk.

At the end of 2011, Newsweek published its 2011 Green Rankings.  This piece identified, “America’s 15 Greenest Companies” and “America’s 20 Least Green Companies.”  Results can be viewed here – http://goo.gl/We91A.  Additionally, for a third consecutive year sustainability issues are expected to be a topic discussed at 2012 annual meetings (“Leading corporate sustainability issues in the 2012 proxy season” Ernst & Young).

Executive Order 13514, signed by President Obama in October 2009, could be considered a primary catalyst for the evolving Sustainability movement.  Based on this order, federal agencies are required to establish a strategy towards sustainability and make the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions a priority for federal agencies.  This requirement also extends to new contracts established, for goods and services purchased by these agencies.  If you service government agencies today, in your normal course of business, you have probably already felt the impact of this Order.

Are you prepared?  If not, following is an approach to get you started —

Immediate Approach

  • Identify an executive to be responsible for the Sustainability movement within your company;
  • Research your local trade group to understand their position.  If none exists, research the activities of your closest competitors in the area of Sustainability.
  • Plan to match the standard set.  Activities advocated by a trade group can become the minimum acceptable level, within the industry.  If a trade group does not exist, consider matching the actions of your most similar competitor, if it makes sense.  But doing nothing creates risk.

Long-Term Approach

  • Perform a Sustainability assessment to understand the applicability of Sustainability on your business;
  • Define the problem and develop a plan which may include re-engineering current products and processes;
  • Educate managers and employees on the company’s approach to sustainability;
  • Track issues within the community, i.e. listening to the concerns of employees, shareholders and community groups;
  • Establish a formal reporting process that provides a status of implementing plans and issues presented; and,
  • Discuss results at senior levels.

The growth in adoption by more and more companies makes the issue of Sustainability an important consideration for your company’s overall strategy and management.

What is your experience?

Author: Regis Quirin
Visit Regis's Website - Email Regis
Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.
© Copyright 2012 Regis Quirin, All rights Reserved. Written For: CFO Tips - What you need to know, to be a CFO TODAY!

Regis Quirin

Regis Quirin is a financial executive with 23 years of corporate experience, i.e. New York Stock Exchange, JP Morgan Chase, and GMAC ResCap; and 15 years working with small and medium-sized entities, i.e. joint ventures, start-up entities, established businesses. In 2014, Regis published "Redesign to Turnaround Underperforming Small and Medium-Sized Businesses" available via Amazon.

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