A handbook for business-driven sustainability work
“We want to show how companies can strengthen their profitability and growth by making continuous and step-by-step improvements for people and the environment.”
The authors, Gunilla Hadders, Karin Henriksson and Bengt Olof Hansson
Sustainable profit – what is it?
Working sustainably is an integral part of normal business development and risk management. Companies can strengthen their profitability and growth by making continuous and step-by-step improvements for people and the environment.
Sustainability is nothing new. It is second nature to many companies with owners who have been investing for the long haul and with customer relationships stretching over many years. What is new is that companies now have to address the changing business risks and opportunities relating to sustainability.
More and more customers, employees and investors expect companies to behave sustainably, i.e. showing respect for people and the environment. By responding to the need for sustainable products and services the company creates a foundation for sustainable profits.
Showing respect for the environment means reducing the negative environmental impact of a company’s products and services throughout the entire product life-cycle; in production, in use and at the end of its life. Showing respect for people means ensuring that production is performed under safe and decent conditions and that products and services are safe to use. Companies should behave ethically and demonstrate respect for human rights. Customers, employees, business partners and owners then have confidence in the company and its management.
Why work sustainably?
We do not need to look far to find business drivers for sustainable working practices.
Sustainability is built on the growing interest of customers in consuming in a sustainable manner and on the growing numbers of investors interested in investing in sustainable companies. It is therefore possible to create an advantage in the market place by being positioned as the responsible and trusted alternative.
Many sustainability measures are aimed at a more effective use of resources, thus creating cost reductions.
Risk management initiatives aimed at reducing the cost of badwill are also strong drivers.
Working for a company that shows respect for people and the environment creates pride and commitment.
The market price for using natural resources does not always reflect the true impact on the environment, which can lead to an over-use of such resources. Companies that run sustainable operations are probably better prepared for a world where natural resources are running out, where consumer demands on sustainability are stronger and where legislation is getting tougher. As many more companies are acting sustainably, it will be increasingly important to incorporate sustainability into the normal way of doing business.
About this handbook
In this handbook we describe how sustainability work can be designed to become a part of normal business development.
In Sustainable Profit we focus on those sustainability issues that are business critical. A checklist for each manager will give practical guidance, enabling sustainable work practices to enhance business development and reduce risks.
We have limited ourselves to issues relating to sustainability. However, in daily operations, sustainability measures cannot be performed in isolation. As with any other successful change process, the issues at hand must be understood, generally accepted, given priority, and followed up on.
Our recommendations are based on actual experience and on international guidelines, such as the UN’s Global Compact, the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI), ISO 26000 and the reporting standard Global Reporting Initiative (GRI).
We look at all the aspects of sustainability; financial, environmental and social benefits. The concept of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) is often used synonymously with that of sustainability. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance issues) is used in the financial sector to analyse non-financial assets. In addition, SRI (Socially Responsible Investment or Sustainable Responsible Investment) is used to review sustainable investments and examines investment strategies from an environmental and a social perspective.
Our aim with this handbook is not to pass judgment on which products and services are sustainable. Instead we describe the measures that must be continually applied in order to be able to offer products and services that will care for the environment and people, whilst increasing the profitability and value of the business.
Several Swedish-based companies have participated in this book with their experience of sustainable business development. We are grateful for their participation