Sustainable development is an area of risk that - when managed
effectively - can create opportunities to innovate, differentiate
and enhance reputation and is becoming fundamental to long-term
By addressing sustainable development issues, businesses of
all sizes have found that they can have a significant impact,
and at the same time meet - and sometimes exceed - their business
The business-led Advisory Committee on Business and the Environment
(ACBE) has developed a briefing paper for Directors - Value,
Growth, Success: How Sustainable is your Business - to
assist with the identification and prioritisation of sustainable
development issues within companies.
The World Business
Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) works to define
the business case for sustainable development, and put that vision
It has identified eco-efficiency,
corporate social responsibility and innovation as the main business contributions to sustainable
The WBCSD believes business can benefit from pursuing sustainable
development in two basic ways - by driving cost efficiencies and
by generating top-line growth through innovation and new markets.
Driving Down Costs
Waste minimisation, process optimisation and energy efficiency
are good for business, as well as the environment. So too is moving
from costly "end of pipe" fixes to managing environmental impacts
in an integrated way.
- Pollution is normally a sign of poor technology and
bad management eg waste or incomplete use of resources
- Reducing pollution through better technology will almost
always lower cost or raise product value/differentiation
- This offsets (at least in part) the cost of
compliance with environmental standards
- But doing so requires innovation
- new approaches to product design, production, distribution,
- Addressing environmental improvement without innovation
eg via end of pipe waste treatment, clean-up or remediation
- will inevitably raise cost and harm competitiveness
Source: Professor Michael E Porter, Harvard
Business School. "Towards a New Conception of the Environment-Competitiveness
Relationship" [Michael E Porter and Claas van der Linde:
The Journal of Economic Perspectives 9] (1995)
Adopting best practice works and it can improve productivity
and profitability significantly. The Government's Envirowise
Energy programmes provide practical help and advice to
business on cost-savings measures.
All businesses can benefit from minimising their environmental
impacts in an structured way. Many use formal environmental management
schemes such as ISO
14001 or the EU's
Eco-Management Audit Scheme (EMAS).
These formal systems
can be implemented in a convenient step-by-step approach using the
Standard BS8555 which includes environmental
performance evaluation, and is especially suitable for smaller
businesses. The step-by-step approach was successfully piloted in
the DTI-funded Project Acorn.
Project has developed practical guidance and tools
for organisations to address economic, environmental and
social impacts in an integrated way. It is supported by DTI
and managed the British Standards Institution, the Institute
of Social and Ethical AccountAbility and Forum for the Future.
More advice on standards and EMS's sources of help, useful links
and the Governments position statement on Environmental Management
Systems can be found on Defras
New Ways Of Doing Business
Innovation and new technology are pervasive in the modern economy.
This is creating unprecedented opportunities to meet society's
needs and aspirations with greatly reduced environmental impact.
not just about using cleaner and leaner technologies
- although this will be important. It is also about new ideas and re-thinking business models to
find smarter forms of production and consumption that use
resources more productively.
Improving the way goods and services are designed, made,
delivered, used and disposed. Providing greater value, performance
and choice for the consumer - as well as reducing environmental
Becoming a Leading Player
The Government's aim is for the UK to become a leading player
in the new and growing markets for green energy and products,
waste minimisation, recycling and re-use.
It is supporting business
through a range of activities including the following programmes:
Trust - Government backed but business led, it supports
the development and adoption of low carbon technology
Renewable Energy - Supports high quality, innovative
R&D projects that offer prospects for improving the performance
and/or reducing the cost of energy derived from renewable sources
and Resources Action Programme (WRAP)- Helps to create
new markets for recycled materials and to promote the development
and take-up of new recycling technologies
Increasingly, business is expected not only to provide reliable,
competitively priced goods and services but also to play a responsible
role in society and take environmental issues seriously. In a
globalised world, people also want to feel sure that the businesses
are acting in a sensitive and responsible way in developing countries
as well as at home.
There have been a number of cases where companies have encountered
significant public concern over their activities. Some have been
over environmental issues, others over human rights,
while some businesses have suffered as a result of working conditions
in factories run by sub-contractors in developing countries.
Corporate social responsibility is about meeting public expectations
while improving business performance. It can bring real business
benefits by reducing risks, enhancing brand value, fostering customer
loyalty and motivating staff.
To find out more visit the Government's
Social Responsibility website.