Elm: Business sustainability moves on, with or without Kyoto

Tyler Elm, vice-president of Business Sustainability at Canadian Tire, explains why sustainability isn't just the right thing to do, it is good business strategy.

Tyler Elm, vice-president of Business Sustainability at Canadian Tire, explains why sustainability isn’t just the right thing to do, it is good business strategy.

Photograph by: Courtesy of Canadian Tire, Courtesy of Canadian Tire

Regardless of government or an imperfect Kyoto Protocol, many Canadian companies will continue their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions because it is in the best interest of their business and the environment.

A new environmentalism – business sustainability – is prospering where traditional environmentalism has failed: in the board room.

What’s been driving the change among business, educators and non-profits to embrace sustainability as a business strategy rather than an isolated environmental initiative?

More than half of the world’s 100 largest economies are corporations, not countries. This is more than a statistic; it’s a tipping point. Predictably, the role and expectations of business in society change with it. Call it enlightened self interest, but whatever your label, the alignment of the for-profit mandate and the pursuit of environmental benefits yields material results.

Business sustainability is the creation of economic value from enhanced social and environmental outcomes. This strategy makes companies better by fostering the development of managerial competencies and the organizational networks needed to succeed in a changing global-political economy and the social expectations that come with it. Beyond the value of better outcomes, the process of learning by doing and collaborating with non-governmental organizations and other stakeholders improves the way we work.

In a corporate environment, sustainability is most successful when it is employed as a strategic framework for innovation, value creation and organizational enhancement. Whether you’re increasing energy productivity, reducing packaging, sourcing paper from sustainably managed forests or developing products that meet emerging social needs, you’re tapping into multiple sources of value.

When I consider the hundreds of sustainability initiatives we have undertaken at Canadian Tire since 2008, they were not motivated by any laws, accords or treaties, but by good business sense. And this trend continues to grow. In the first nine months of 2011, my colleagues completed 365 sustainability initiatives in the areas of product and packaging redesign, transportation and building operations. Their efforts are forecasted to annually avoid $4.5 million in costs, 2,269 tonnes of waste and 5,264 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, while also generating almost $1 million in new revenue from the deployment of clean technology.

Their work reflects a broader movement. To better understand the scope of business sustainability in Canada, consider Canada’s Clean50. This partnership between Delta Management Group and Corporate Knights recognized 50 individuals and teams who had made the greatest contributions to sustainable capitalism in Canada in recent years.

The list covers many facets of society – the public sector, NGOs, educators, financial services, manufacturing, retail and more.

Honourees such as John Wiebe, Tima Bansal, Frank Dottori and Galen Weston aren’t waiting for the government to tell them what to do. They lead because it’s in their best interests to lead and be a source of innovation in a changing world.

Friedman’s edict – that the business of business is business, and the creation of shareholder profit is its fundamental mandate – is just as true now as it ever was. Yet what has changed is the context within which business operates, and thus how one bounds this edict. The sources of value available to business and the competitive forces acting upon it are dynamic. We should not be surprised by shifts in business criteria, sources of value, or changes in the business activities required delivering a winning value proposition.

Canada’s sustainability journey predates Kyoto and will continue into the future because of innovative Canadians leading by example.

Tyler Elm is vice-president of business sustainability at Canadian Tire Corp. and was named to Canada’s Clean50.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

Source / Fuente: www.calgaryherald.com

Author / Autor: Tyler Elm

Date / Fecha: 01/01/12

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