Is being good, good for business?
It’s a question that has appeared on many a blog, but with global business so firmly in the spotlight, perhaps it’s never been more relevant to ask than now.
The constant stream of new Social and Green Business gives us some clue about the answer. And it seems that even Big Business is keen to show how ‘good’ it can be. I’ve attended a couple of events in the last few weeks that have included keynotes from the likes of Legal & General, Virgin Media, and CISCO – all with their very own brands of sustainability.
Thankfully, it seems we’re past the days of blatant green wash, with businesses starting to realise that there’s nowhere left to hide – there isn’t a CSR document big enough to shield anyone from the Twitter and Facebook massive. Companies are finally waking up to the fact that people might care about more than simply shareholder return. So, in comes a new, and frankly more believable, business approach to sustainability. But what does this look like?
Well, the truth is that I’ve seen a bit of a mixed picture. To give one example - I’ve heard plenty of talk about the financial case for sustainability. Reducing travel and energy has a clear impact on a company’s bottom line, so “It’s easy to sell this in” is often the message coming from the sustainability heads. I can’t argue against why they do it, as long as they do it – right? But it’s interesting to look at the way they’re going about it.
Some companies are changing behaviours from the bottom up – really engaging with their staff, customers, suppliers and advisors to embed sustainability into the heart of the business. Others are sticking up a few posters and hoping for the best. I couldn’t help but be impressed by CISCO’s all singing, all dancing (yet completely logical) IT-driven solutions; from video conferencing to a state-of-the-art system allowing one person to switch off power across all their sites at the click of button. Their opinion being that the game changers will be the initiatives (or orders!) that come from the top down, and the ‘technology will do it for you’ approach reinforcing that point of view.
So, is being good, good for business?
It seems that I’m not alone in thinking so. Whether companies are stepping up to the sustainable mark for financial reasons, to please their shareholders, or out of real ethical concern; they’re doing it to make their business better, and they’re doing it fast. It’s now just a matter of time to see just how good being good can be. However, given the changing expectations of purchasers, suppliers, commissioners and even workers concerning how companies should be operating in this day and age, I imagine that being good will not just be beneficial for business, but absolutely vital too.