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Why is Sustainability the Need of the Hour for Businesses A company must develop the capacity within itself to continuously identify the factors affecting its holistic growth

By Miniya Chatterji

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In capitalist economies, there is a growing trend where business appetite for long-term investments is reduced, while short-termism is becoming more popular. Companies are often more focused on fire fighting problems rather than having a holistic approach to their growth plans. This has become perfect fodder for poor planning, hurried business decisions, employee dissatisfaction, and ultimately a potential boom-and-bust scenario for the company.

It is because of such a realization, that a few visionary organizations such as Unilever and Veolia have made a conscious decision to incorporate sustainability into their organization.

What is Business Sustainability?

Sustainability means an organisation's growth that is not just speedy, but also authentic and holistic. Essentially, it means attending to issues that are "important' rather than only those that are "urgent', and are beneficial to the organization in the "long term' rather than just in the "short term'. Moreover there are a few things that corporates need to keep in mind while addressing sustainability issues:

Sustainability is not Just About CSR

First, corporates must realize that sustainability is not just about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and protecting the environment, it also includes ensuring energy efficiency, risk management, social development, reputation management, financial sustainability, adequate due diligence on new investments, business diversification, employee protection, sustainability reporting, and much more.

Sustainability is not a PR Tool

Second, corporates have to stop viewing sustainability as a Public Relations (PR) tool to look good. Doing little and plastering reports and media with feel-good photos of it, is unfortunately what a large number of companies do. Positive results from being a sustainable company can only be achieved when the company's objective is not PR, but a genuine desire to achieve its own authentic and holistic growth trajectory keeping in mind the mid and long term.

Sustainability Transcends "band-aid' Solutions

Third, companies have to also stop adopting "band-aid' solutions to crucial issues such as climate change, protecting biodiversity, and instead take on a more rigorous approach to finding and implementing real solutions for the sustainability of itself and its stakeholders.

How does an Organization Become Sustainable?

To be sustainable, a company needs to develop the capacity within itself to continuously identify the factors affecting its holistic growth in the long term, build knowledge and skill set on how to counter the adverse factors, and roll out the changes within itself in a self sufficient manner.

A company does not need to depend on piece-meal, cookie-cutter solutions offered by external consulting companies. Only then is sustainability sustainable.

So, for instance, companies in an energy intensive industry do not need suggestions from external consultants to come in sporadically and layout energy efficiency solutions. It is more sustainable for such companies to first recognize that being energy efficient is important for its long term growth, identify its energy efficiency needs, develop or recruit in-house talent accordingly, plan the implementation, set aside budgets, and then roll out.

Sustainability is Not an Added Function

It is critical for a company to incorporate sustainability within its business model itself. The source of raw materials, production processes, the choice of products manufactured, company employee policies, and more, can all be planned keeping in mind the long term holistic growth plans of the company rather than just immediate financial gains. We have to reach a point where every profitable company is a social entrepreneur.

The Take-away

Any corporation that is interested in enhancing its value for the long term must invest in institutionalizing sustainability as a central node within its organization.

Miniya Chatterji

Founder, Sustain Labs Paris

Miniya Chatterji, founder Sustain Labs Paris parted ways with the $3.4 billion conglomerate Jindal Steel & Power Ltd. as Chief Sustainability Officer to move to an entrepreneurial route.

At the age of 34 in 2014, when she returned to India after studying and working abroad at organizations such as Goldman Sachs and the World Economic Forum for 14 years, to join Jindal Steel & Power, she was one of the youngest top business women in India.

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