Environmental awareness is a longstanding movement socially and politically. Though businesses in general have increasingly recognized and adopted some environmentally aware practices, hurdles remain in adopting a full and comprehensive corporate sustainability management (CSM) strategy.
Today's CSM is a broad-reaching business strategy that not only can contribute to environmental sustainability but also, importantly, can improve business sustainability and cost management.
Many businesses have begun to adopt CSM. Unfortunately, less than one-third have been able to integrate CSM as part of an active business strategy and culture. Pushing past the early speed bumps helps businesses realize the improved margins and other opportunities that CSM affords throughout the enterprise.
What is CSM, really?
CSM can truly run the gamut in terms of breadth and depth of sustainable practices adopted throughout a business. Similarly, the goals and the levels of commitment throughout the business hierarchy will differ, but importantly, the more flexible the goals and the more thorough the commitment from corporate management through employees, the greater the opportunities for improving business practices and margins.
Building a CSM plan should involve top-down and bottom-up commitment and ownership within the organization. The successful CSM strategy should include a means to marry business practices with social and environmental practices that the organization defines as important — not only to the customers but also, and more importantly, to everyone in the organization. By attending to this underpinning relationship in sustainability management, an organization can identify and measure CSM metrics in both traditional business fiscal terms and in terms of benefits to the individuals, communities, and the environment. Most business people would agree that successful CSM occurs when the goals of reduced costs and reduced carbon footprints are achieved simultaneously.
Building CSM success
An important starting point for developing a realistic and successful CSM is reviewing the best-practices and consider what improvements are possible. This review, of course, should consider facility use: timed and/or motion sensing lighting, energy-efficient lighting such as LEDs, videoconferencing instead of travel, recycling stations, recycled office goods, environmentally friendly pest control and cleaning, etc. A strong program must also review logistics practices and efficiency opportunities, and it must establish a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) that can be used to measure day-to-day internal practices and farther-reaching improvements in efficiency and waste reduction. Smith & Associates recently published a step-wise case study on developing and implementing short- and long-term CSM along with KPIs.
Sourcing and logistics are among the leading business domains that hold the greatest opportunities for cost improvements and efficiency upgrading, resulting in lowered operational costs and improved margins. CSM development and implementation do hold challenges for defining the core goals and the steps to be taken, but the outcome for businesses has resoundingly been the opening of competitive advantages for internal cost reduction and business-value opportunities, from new supply chain relationships to long-term business sustainability.