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Is your business management sustainable?

“Climate Change is like the internet", says Paul Dickinson, Chief Executive Officer at the Carbon Disclosure Project." It arrives one day, gets bigger every year and you have to learn to make money from it." Do you agree with him?
It is a gradual process that becomes more powerful and destructive to all living beings and to the nature. Innovation is key to find alternative solutions to the way we are living, producing, consuming and organizing our society. Even in climate change early adopters who see the possibilities and who find alternative solutions will most likely be prosperous but also contribute to others. They can contribute to more climate-smart ways to run a business. It is essential to combine an initiative that is financially profitable with a solution that minimizes the damages on nature. Otherwise it will not be sustainable!

Regardless of the climate change there are many other social and environmental issues lurking at the doorstep. This challenge will require radical transformation in how we produce, distribute, and consume. What do you propose to us as consumers and as manufacturers?
Consumers are very powerful by the choices they are doing and are sending a clear message to the producers of what they value. By always asking whether a product is produced in line with ones values and if the product really is needed, consumers can radically change the range of products.

Manufactures need to look into the whole value chain to learn about the footprints of their product. From the raw material and components, to how the business is operating, to what happens after the consumer is done with the product. How much CO2 emission, waste, water consumption etc. is required to produce the good by the manufacturer and their suppliers? Innovative solutions can be developed in cooperation with the suppliers and other stakeholders and benchmarks need to be set to minimize or reduce the burden on society.

Can you explain how a manufacturer can balance short-term financial needs with long-term social values?
A complete transformation to an environmental, social and financial sustainable business is a long journey. It is a question of balancing technology, human behavior and financial resources and it might take ten years. However many small changes will start the process and engage people to the cause. And it is less expensive than a major change which is also more difficult to manage.

Let's put it provocatively: the economic trigger is greed. Not charity. Do we need political restraints on the long run? Regulations regarding emission, import contingents for certain goods and so on?
Greed and charity is something else. This is business reality and strategy for survival in a demanding marketplace. Customers, employees, media, NGO and other stakeholders are putting pressure equally strong as a regulation. With the help of social media, information about a product or a company can disseminate in a few seconds and destroy a brand very quickly. Regulation is however necessary to ensure that any change occurs within a specified timeframe.
Can you give one or two examples where CSR and green economics are more than a fig leaf to ploy all parties involved?
Recently PUMA released the first Environmental Profit and Loss (EP&L) report ever produced by a company. Placing a monetary value on the impacts on natural services along the entire supply chain, it illustrates the potentially negative impact depleted ecosystems can have on a business’ future performance.

It will strategically help to identify more sustainable materials and to prepare for emerging risks. And it will provide a basis for more meaningful, evidence-based engagement with their stakeholders. It makes a major contribution to the development of integrated reporting due to its explicit linkage between the use of environmental resources and economic consequences.

MAX Hamburger restaurants in Sweden and Norway are the fastest growing fast food chain. They decided to distinguish themselves from their competitors and take the climate change seriously and make a positive impact on the planet. They decided to transform the business and become sustainable. Fast food chains are known for bad food, bad working conditions and contributing to GHG emissions worldwide. Today the restaurants are wind powered and their menu is carbon labeled. Max sustainability initiative includes health issues and being a caring employer with a strong environmental profile.

Finally your personal projection: Mankind is growing. Energy consumption exploding, compensated by nuclear power plants. Resources are declining. And everywhere money is made with all of it. Are we on the right track?
Our lifestyle is not sustainable. It is not only the increasing demand by a growing population and a shortage of supply of natural resources. It is also the inequality between those who have and those who have not. And that is not sustainable!  Lots of things can be solved by innovation and new technology. The major challenge is the human aspect; are people prepared to change and embrace new values?

Countries need to be valuated by more than GDP and business has to include the cost they create in the whole value chain. The society can’t carry the costs for environmental damages. All together the costs must be reduced at the same time as we seriously value health on all level, life satisfaction and other soft values.
Published: 17/03/2012
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