This post was originally published on Linkedin.
Sure, I wrote this in a pretty cozy situation: March blizzard outside, fireplace and music inside. Fuzzy socks on. Office closed for the snow day.
But huddling up for a Nor’easter just a couple weeks after a run of 75 degree February days is a subtle reminder of how climate change is creeping up on us. Extreme weather whiplash is a hallmark of things to come; some very confused birds that were out in force last week are now tweeting, “WTF is this, I thought it was July.”
The changes are real, even if gradual. I could go all “sky is falling” but that doesn’t lead anywhere productive. The world’s population isn’t going to suddenly change its habits to save the planet. We aren’t good at that.
We are good at trying to preserve what we have, though, and that’s where the saving grace will come. More businesses are beginning to realize that we consume more than the planet makes, so we either need to do more with what we have or create more of what we don’t have. Both are HARD, which stinks because that’s a serious deterrent for most people.
On the plus side, business leaders of major corporations like Apple and IKEA are acknowledging that the alternative is worse than hard work. If we don’t shift the way we approach consumption, we will literally run out of options. That means less access to materials throughout the supply chain, which drives up pricing at every stage of manufacturing. It means using fewer resources in the normal course of business to avoid increased costs and liabilities.
Look at the wine industry, since we can rest assured there will always be consumer demand for wine. Seeking a new avenue to long term profitability in the context of the California drought, the trifecta of UC Davis, Winesecrets, and GE teamed up to test drive a process that uses rainwater in wine production. If they can settle on a way to maximize and recycle existing resources, they could potentially pave the way for more reliable production not only of wine, but other agricultural output. A prime example of seeking a path to profitable sustainability.
This kind of thinking is becoming more prevalent in boardrooms worldwide. Pure Strategies found in a recent study that 52% of respondents achieved supply chain cost savings and risk reduction by prioritizing resource efficiency. Renewable energy is also a hot button, as the survey anticipates a nearly 100% increase in companies shifting to a renewables strategy by 2019.
The motivation? It’s just good business, driven by shrinking resources and consumer demand for greater awareness of corporate impact. And that’s okay, right? Capitalism should correlate directly with maximizing resources – the more businesses that understand profitable sustainability in the near term, the more they will benefit over time.
For me, that was a major motivator for some calculated changes. I left the generalist marketing firm I’d co-founded, traded for an electric car, built a vegetable garden (everything died, good learning experience though), and launched a new business to focus more on marketing sustainability. One of our overarching goals is to help businesses connect their message with the sustainable economy, including the investors and users that define their marketplace. This focus allows our team to contribute to our clients’ success, while at the same time knowing we have an impact beyond our day-to-day results.
In the meantime, as I sympathize with the birds I’ll keep asking this question: what’s the upside of widespread unsustainable business practices beyond the next few years? I have a tough time answering that one. Thoughts are welcome, but I’ll maintain that pushing profitable sustainability pays real dividends.