- Written by Marc Courtenay
- Monday, 06 October 2008
"We have entered a world that is resource-constrained, and carbon-constrained, and with 3 billion more people forecasted by 2050, the only way we are going to solve these problems is through new technology and by changing consumption patterns."
These are the words of Bjorn Stigson, president of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. This is a 200-plus member organization whose members represent global companies with a combined market value of some $8 trillion.
This includes companies like Alcoa (NYSE:AA), General Electric (NYSE:GE), and Boeing (NYSE:BA).
"We are in for a tranformation change over the next , 30, 40, 50 years, and there will be winners and loosers," Stigson recently said.
"Not many corporations get up in the morning and say, 'How can I pillage the Earth today?' There intention is to do the right thing," says Paul Gilding, a former international executive director of Greenpeace who has spent the past 13 years advising corporations like Dupont (NYSE:DD) and Ford (NYSE:F).
"The challenge is to find a way to do it in a commercial context." Integrating sustainability into a company's core business functions, Gilding and other experts say, is the key to success, both for the world the company impacts and the company itself.
Sustainability shouldn't be seen as a risk and a cost, but as an opportunity and an investment. Among the companies that have grasped this idea, says Gilding, is DuPont, the flasghip example in the U.S.
"It realized that it was good at chemicals because it was good at science and safety. And it could use that to make the world a better place while growing its business. So it began to deliver products that could reduce CO2 emissions by insulating houses better.
"It built a safety consulting business to help other companies reduce workplace accidents. It invested in solar-cell technology, biofuels, improving the nutritional value of food.
"DuPont realized that what benefits society also benefits shareholders." Unfortunately many companies right now are just worried about financial survival and how the credit crisis will impact their bottom line. They are often distracted by analysts' updates and the upheavals in the marketplace.
The good news is that companies are starting to feel a push toward sustainability. It isn't just coming from customers worried about $4-per-gallon gasoline or even global warming. It's also coming from shareholders, notably the large institutions.
"The really big investors like pension funds know that the big social and environmental issues of the day, whether they be health care or global warming, are going to affect the whole economy--and as the economy goes, so goes their investment, " says Michelle Chan, program director for green investments at Friends of the Earth, an environmental advocacy group.
I highly recommend you check out the user-friendly home page of Friends of the Earth and see what they say about the current financial crisis and how it may be impacting the corporate world's interest in all things "Green" and its committment to sustainability and responsible policies.
These are challenging times for us all, and it behooves those of us who care about protecting our magnificent blue planet to make sure that industrial, mining, food, pharmaceutical, chemical and manufacturing companies we might be invested in are doing their part and not letting down.