A business case for sustainability

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“Regardless of what industry you’re in, environmental issues — in particular climate change — have to be on your radar.”

The business case for adopting socially responsible and sustainable business practices is clear, regardless of what industry you’re in. Just look at the environmental landscape. Demand for energy is rising as a result of population growth and changing climatic patterns. This is happening at a time when government is pushing to use less coal and fossil fuels and more green power.

Sustainability derives from the concept of sustainable development that entered the world of business back in the 1980s. “It largely came down to the realization that when making economic decisions, you need to consider the impact of your actions on the environment and on society so that you are strengthening them rather than weakening them,” says Mel Wilson, former associate partner, Sustainable Business Solutions, PwC.

“Fundamentally, sustainable development was a decision-making model. It wasn’t anti-economics or anti-capitalism. It was an economic theory that stated if you consider things beyond immediate financial returns, it’s good for business in the long-run because a healthier, more vibrant society makes for a healthy economy.” In effect, sustainable development was a business model for growth.

Over time, corporate social responsibility (CSR)—ethics and the role of business in society—started to comingle with sustainability. In today’s world, they are interchangeable terms. So what is considered socially responsible is to care for the environment, to respect the rights of others, especially the vulnerable, and to consider the impact of today’s actions on future generations. If you can do those things, you are seen as being socially responsible.

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Let's Talk is part of our PwC Private Business Exchange program — a dynamic, interactive community of private business owners and executives. To read all articles in the Let's Talk series, please follow the links below:

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