More and more large corporations are adopting sustainable practices not only as a way of improving their environmental impact but also as a way of improving their businesses. The problem, green author Joel Makower says, is they are "walking more than they are talking."
"That's a problem because you're not able to get credit for what you're doing, you're not able to get full profitability for your company and your industry," Makower told attendees during his talk Wednesday on strategies for sustainable practices at the Worldwide Food Expo.
Sustainability is not a trend, and it is more than a synonym for improving the environment, said Makower. Sustainability is an intergenerational "golden rule" for leaving society and the planet both financially and environmentally better off than it was.
Going as far back as three decades, companies were starting initiatives aimed at doing no further harm to the environment. As the movement progressed, companies began to figure out how to eliminate their impacts and in a way that provided reputational benefits and bottom-line improvement. Today, they are determining how to grow their top lines, using sustainable practices as a platform for innovation in terms of new products, new services and new business models.
Companies, however, are finding challenges communicating those efforts to consumers, who generally believe the onus is on the business world to improve its sustainability practices but also believe businesses are only in it for marketing purposes. Often the messages are inferred as companies doing "less bad," Makower said, using the example of efforts by jeans maker Levi Strauss & Co. He said the company didn't want to discuss an initiative to source 2 percent of its cotton from organic suppliers for fear of what people would think about the other 98 percent.
Crafting the right messages throughout the value chain will be easier once there are more concrete metrics and standards by which companies can measure the effectiveness or quality of their efforts. Companies first need to determine what their carbon footprints are and then be able to prove improvements with data, Makower said. Reprinted in part from MeatandPoultry.com