Sustainability Strategy – a luxury or competitive advantage?

Joseph Schumpeter was an Austrian-American economist who likened capitalism to a

Green growth - Some emerging-world companies are combining growth with greenery

 “perennial gale of creative destruction”.  It’s funny how many economists did not / do not like Capitalism, but that is a discussion for another day.  Last week the Schumpeter columun in the Economist “Green Growth” discussed a new study by the World Economic Forum (WEF) and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) that identifies 16 emerging-market firms that they say are turning eco-consciousness into a source of competitive advantage.  These highly profitable companies (which the study dubs “the new sustainability champions”) are using greenery to reduce costs, motivate workers and forge relationships.

The article says that the most salient quality of these companies is that they turn limitations (of resources, labour and infrastructure) into opportunities. For example, India’s Shree Cement, which has long suffered from water shortages, developed the world’s most water-efficient method for making cement, in part by using air-cooling rather than water-cooling. Manila Water, a utility in the Philippines, reduced the amount of water it was losing, through wastage and illegal tapping, from 63% in 1997 to 12% in 2010 by making water affordable for the poor. Broad Group, a Chinese maker of air conditioners, taps the waste heat from buildings to power its machines.  In each case ingenuity, breaking new ground and problem solving are at their heart.

But when I read the Schumpeter article I wonder if emerging companies are proving that a “green field” advantage for greening exists. Perhaps it is easier to lobby a goverment for new “green” regulations when there isn’t a stodgy old entrenched sector lobbying against you because you threaten their market share (think – fossil fuels, industrialized agriculture, car manufacturers).

It just may be that the agility to maneuver around green path obstacles and come up with real green innovation could become a competitive advantage. Hmm – where will that leave all those businesses in the industrial world that are trying to decide how “authentically” green they should become?

Hence – everyone should sign up for our upcoming “Developing your Sustainability Strategy” Workshop (its on-line, interactive and conveniently timed).  Learn how to develop and implement an authentic green stategy — and gain competitive advantage.  Sign up now, while there is still space, time is running out.  The program commences October 4th.  You can get more information here:   Hope to see you there.

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About Kathryn Cooper

Kathryn Cooper is a committed sustainability practitioner and educator moving companies toward “green” profitability and sustainable competitive advantage by unlocking human creativity and technical innovation. Over the last two years she has had the privilege to work with companies like Dupont, Zerofootprint, WWF Canada, and Partners in Project Green on sustainability issues, best practices and renewable energy. Kathryn is a graduate of York University with a Master of Education specializing on Sustainability and the Environment. She holds an MBA from Wilfrid Laurier University, and a Bachelor of Science from the University of Guelph.
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