The Sustainability Edge

Why Sustainability Is Fast Becoming The Ultimate Competitive Advantage – And How To Get Stakeholders To Embrace It

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Suhas Apte & Jagdish N. Sheth, Authors, THE SUSTAINABILITY EDGE: How To Drive Top-Line Growth With Triple-Bottom-Line Thinking

Ensuring long-term sustainability, whether it’s a start-up or an ongoing business, should be a top priority for every entrepreneur and CEO. With the growth stagnation seen in mature markets, resource availability in decline, the pace of innovation accelerating while the life-span of innovation shortens, the demographics scenario of mature to developing/emerging markets changing with the rise of millennial and Gen X consumers – a new paradigm is emerging.

In our new book, THE SUSTAINABILITY EDGE, we explain that the next major competency that businesses will need to pursue to gain a sustainable competitive advantage will be sustainability itself. Business leaders need to embrace sustainability in a holistic, transformative, and balanced way to engage stakeholders and deliver triple-bottom-line benefits.

We have identified nine key sustainability stakeholder groups, which we have organized into three classifications based on the nature of their impact on businesses. See Stakeholder Sustainability Framework below.

Leaders need to approach each of these stakeholder groups in a targeted manner, as follows:

Motivating Consumers – Design products and services that make consumption meaningful and actively market sustainability news to deliver long-term and often short-term business success. The importance of educating, engaging and promoting sustainability to consumers cannot be stressed enough.

Collaborating with Customers – Examine all business-to-business relationships and innovate ways your business can engage with customers, distributors, and key accounts through sustainability initiatives to derive competitive advantage.

Inspiring Employees – Keep in mind that talented sustainability-minded employees are often both internal and external company ambassadors that can in turn attract, energize and engage a new and necessary pool of talent.  Enlightened employees can transform your company into a successful and externally recognized, sustainability leader.

Nurturing Suppliers – Extend and accelerate your company’s sustainability agenda by leveraging your many suppliers on both the value and innovation fronts.

Investing in Communities – Develop symbiotic, sustainability-centered relationships with the communities you either operate and/or do business in.  Doing so, will enhance the quality of life, and improve the environment in these communities and insure healthy markets, margins and employee base.

Attracting Investors – Showcase and promote your sustainability programs and initiatives to investors.  Help them see how these efforts that improve shareholders returns, reduce sustainability-associated risks and make this planet a better place are all congruent.

Leveraging Media – Challenge your organization to carefully examine how all forms of media play an important role in promoting your company’s sustainability and growth agenda and how they can help attain your company’s long and short term internal goals.

Engaging Governments – Enhance your organization’s sustainability credentials and legitimacy by participating in the public-private partnerships that deliver business advantage while addressing societal and environmental issues.

Partnering with NGOs – Proactively tap the knowledge, resources and passions of subject matter expert NGO’s and thought leaders when developing your sustainability programs and integrate these valuable insights into the innovation processes of existing and new products and services.

Companies that effectively engage and energize all their key stakeholders, and embrace sustainability as fundamental to their joint mission, realize the most productive and long-lasting sustainability platform that is at once financially, environmentally and socially successful. These companies develop a culture where sustainability is embedded in its “DNA,” which in turn becomes the driving force behind its business success. These companies are then poised to enjoy a superior and unique competitive advantage that is extremely difficult to replicate.

About the Authors
Suhas Apte, co-author of THE SUSTAINABILITY EDGE, is President of Apte Consultants and a partner in the Blue Earth Network, helping businesses discover breakthrough opportunities. Apte, who served as Global Sustainability Officer and President of European Family Care business at Kimberly-Clark, has extensive CPG industry experience and sustainability credentials based on a broad career working in Asia-Pacific, developing markets, Europe, and the United States. He has a degree in mechanical engineering as well as an MBA from the University of Pennsylvaniaʼs Wharton School of Business.

Jagdish N. Sheth, co-author of THE SUSTAINABILITY EDGE, is the Charles H. Kellstadt Professor of Marketing in the Goizueta Business School at Emory University. He has served on the faculties of Columbia University, MIT, University of Illinois, and University of Southern California. An expert on consumer demographics, the impact of technology on society, and the globalization of competition, he has been advisor to numerous corporations all over the world. He has published over 300 research papers and more than 30 books, and has a Ph.D. in Behavioral Sciences and an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh as well as a Bachelorʼs of Commerce degree from the University of Madras.

For more information, and the authors’ easy to use, on-line Stakeholder Sustainability Audit tool, please visitwww.thesustainabilityedge.com.

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