Sep 162014
 

Desk Plant

The new standard of corporate sustainability goes way beyond recycling and energy efficiency. Today’s business leaders embed social and environmental impact into an organization’s value chain to drive performance and competitive advantage. Here are three cutting edge trends Corporate Sustainability Managers are thinking about that YOU need to know:

  1. The “Do No Harm” era of corporate sustainability is over. Corporate sustainability in the late 90s and early 2000s was led by large industrial companies like Dow and DuPont. The focus was on superior environmental health and safety standards such as reductions in pollution and waste. Now, companies like Unilever and Patagonia are eclipsing these efforts in a new era of corporate sustainability that attempts to transform core products and services, and the extensive value chains that deliver them. These strategies are more complex, but also have more impact. Read more here.
  2. A new focus on empowerment and “acculturation”. Sustainability professionals have laundry lists of sustainability actions in need of being implemented. They know what needs to be done, but often lack control over the tools to make it happen — budget, staffing, incentives, etc. The new goal is to incite functional managers and line employees to identify their own opportunities to improve corporate social and environmental performance with their sphere of influence. This effort moves sustainability initiatives through lower levels of the organization, thereby embedding it in culture and organizational process (“acculturation”). The idea is that this relatively simple change in approach can alter the way business is done in every function and unit of the company. Note 40% of companies are already engaging their employees directly in sustainability (up 10% since 2012).  Read more here.
  3. Companies must expand the definition of success beyond growth. Even if we make incremental changes to our business operations, the end goal of all major businesses – growth – is inherently unsustainable when we’re operating on a planet with limited resources. It’s time for businesses to expand success to encapsulate other goals such as quality of life and well-being. This is where business model innovations like cooperatives, circular economies, and benefit corporations could have a major impact. Read more here.

If you’re as excited about these trends as we are, join us and Jeff Senne, Director of Corporate Responsibility at PwC, in exploring these topics and more at our Sustainability Roundtable: Lunch and Learn Series. Light lunch will be served and rich discussion is expected. The first session is scheduled for September 23rd from Noon to 1pm and will accommodate an intimate group of 6-10 people. The Series will be crafted based on the interest areas of participants (not just the three listed above!), so come prepared with questions and ready to articulate what you hope to gain from the series!

If you’re interested in joining, send an RSVP to Kim R. Glinka: krobertella@rhsmith.umd.edu. Each session will be limited to the first eight registrants. (Faculty and students welcome!)

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