Archive for March, 2014

Can Business Profit from Greater Attention to the Environment?

In “Sustainability’s Next Frontier: Walking the Talk on the Sustainability Issues that Matter Most”, an eye-opening study published by the MIT Sloan Management Review, only 32% of companies said their organization’s sustainability-related actions or decisions had added to their firm’s profitability. Another equivalent proportion (32%) said these actions or decisions had been ‘break even’ (didn’t add to or take away from profit). So nearly two-thirds of companies say sustainability initiatives add to or have no negative impact on profitability.

However, just over 10% of respondents said these actions/decisions had taken away from the firm’s profitability. A full quarter of survey respondents said they didn’t know what impact their actions or decisions had on profitability. What is perhaps more sobering is that the percentage that believes sustainability-related actions had added to profitability declined from 39% in 2009 to 32% in 2013. And the percentage describing these initiatives as “break even” has risen from 27% to 32%. So there’s no guarantee of profit but there certainly is the possibility.
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Three Questions to Ask When Assessing Your Small Business for Environmental Sustainability

Here’s a practical way to get started on understanding how environmentally sustainable your business is: do a baseline review. Even if you think you know your business well, you’ll find that asking yourself three questions will help you understand what impact – good or bad – your business may be having on the environment. At the same time, odds are you will find ways you can improve your business at the same time (save money, better understand customer needs, find opportunities for new products and services, increase employee satisfaction, pride in work and productivity).

Question 1: What’s coming into our business? Make a quick list of everything that arrives at your place of business in whatever form – raw materials, parts or products from others, supplies of all kinds, and even your employees. Don’t forget those items that only come into your business “virtually”; for instance, perhaps you ship directly from a supplier to a customer. Add those items to your list.
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What Role Could Business Have in Addressing Climate Change?

Dr. David Victor, University of California, San Diego recently presented on international climate change negotiations for the Coursera course “Climate Change in Four Dimensions”. As might be expected from someone who authored a book entitled Global Warming Gridlock: New Strategies for Protecting the Planet (2011), Dr. Victor has taken a careful look at the last 20 years of international climate diplomacy, offering insight into why we have made such little diplomatic progress on this issue, canvassing the available strategies that might be employed, and suggesting strategies that might work better (than the monolithic, everyone-in-the-pool, hard-targets/binding commitments approach that characterized the Kyoto Protocol and much of the discussion that has followed).

Dr. Victor’s analysis is fascinating, and all by itself, is worth taking the course. Some of the highlights which caught our attention (given NCR’s interest in transformational opportunities for business) were:
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