Why All Businesses Can Benefit from a Guiding Social or Environmental Purpose
According to Nielsen’s 2015 Global Corporate Sustainability report, 66 percent of global consumers surveyed said they were willing to pay more for sustainable brands. When the consumers surveyed were limited to just millennials, the number jumped to 73 percent.
Sustainability, then, is more than just a buzzword. It's a much-lauded, frequently cited goal in the world of business. A company like Freightera, a Vancouver-based freight marketplace, knows this well. Freightera takes sustainability seriously and as a result is reaping benefits, in both the ethical and commercial sense.
That's significant because the freight industry is a major cause of air pollution and one of the fastest-growing contributors to climate change. Freightera, which connects businesses that need to ship freight with freight-transportation companies that make up this multibillion-dollar global logistics industry, is trying to change that.
Specifically, Freightera is building what it calls North America's first low-emission freight marketplace. The company has partnered with Natural Resources Canada’s energy-efficiency SmartWay program to reduce fuel costs and emissions from freight transportation. Freightera’s own Go Green option is allowing shippers to choose freight quotes by lower emission, in addition to price and shipping time.
“It is far too late, in terms of climate change, air and water pollution, and fundamental inequality, for business to be organized purely for profit,” CEO Eric Beckwitt said in an interview, explaining his company's stance. “Businesses, especially large firms, are superbly positioned to rapidly improve social and environmental conditions, and reduce emissions to prevent climate change. It is time for businesses to lead.”
Freightera's Go Green option allows customers to select quotes based on lower emission carriers in addition to shipping time and price. As a result, 78 percent of the loads that Freightera books are now shipped by low-emission carriers, according to its website.
How sustainability fits into commercial success
More and more people have come to believe in a link between commercial success and a business's commitment to sustainable development.
And committing to business goals that align with the health of the planet can pay off. Nielsen's report noted that in 2015, the year of its publication, sales of consumer goods from brands that had demonstrated a real commitment to sustainability grew, on average, more than 4 percent globally. Those that did not have such a commitment grew, on average, less than 1 percent.
The implication was, and is, that consumers are paying attention. They're favoring brands that have committed to the social good in various ways, including sustainable development. While many big businesses are communicating such a commitment, only a quarter are linking this purpose to sustainable development. And fewer still appear to truly live that purpose.
At Freightera, the company's commitment to sustainability is no accidental choice, Beckwitt said. He said he feels strongly that all businesses should have a guiding social or environmental reason for their existence, and that profit should merely be a by-product.
So, companies need to go beyond contributing to public and individual funds that support sustainability efforts, Beckwitt said. They should instead change how their own products are manufactured and shipped, to decrease their carbon footprint.
Fortunately, findings like those from Nielsen’s indicate that sustainability can be a win/win scenario for companies because they're rewarded by consumers, in a kind of virtuous cycle.
Companies organized around solving social and environmental problems, then, can find profits even as they make real contributions to the most challenging problems facing humanity. To fully benefit from the interdependency between a goal like sustainable development and commercial success, businesses need to articulate a clear purpose. Our future depends on it.