We return to work knowing that we have experienced a different vacation and summer. We have been through sweltering heat and are beginning to understand that we are experiencing the direct impacts of climate change.
We remember the fires, the drought, the high temperatures, the low water levels of the swamps. We woke up to the news that in Spain the last permanent lagoon in the Doñana National Park, a symbol of European biodiversity, is almost dry.
We begin to notice what they call ecoanxiety.
With anguish over the climate emergency and fear of the future, we return to work and ask ourselves:
What if we were more sustainable?
Why not find a purpose for our business that has a more positive environmental, social or economic impact?
Why don’t we invest in changing the production model, in consuming cleaner energy or in applying circular economy principles, optimizing resources?
Then, a little voice arises, sometimes in our team, sometimes it is the voice of the boss or the shareholders, or sometimes it is the resistance to change that we all have, which tells us:
“That all sounds great but it will make us less competitive. Sustainability is nothing more than a fad that will make us waste time and money. When they do it in China then yes we will do it but, if not, it is impossible to compete”.
Sustainability: a competitive advantage
In my classes I see that, although more and more people work convinced of the need to be more sustainable, others continue with that last sentence engraved in their brains. For this reason, I always start the course by giving a list of arguments that show that sustainability is a competitive advantage for companies and organizations.
For starters, today sustainability gives us better access to finance. On the one hand, to the public, through funds that can be European (NextGenerationEU or REPowerEU Plan), multilateral (World Bank, …) or those that are specifically opened by each country.
On the other hand, also to private financing: more and more banks are offering green bonds, giving better financing conditions to sustainable companies or with environmental projects. In addition, there are more and more investment funds that incorporate ESG criteria when choosing their investments.
Regulation is also important and is progressively advancing. At European level, through the EU Green Deal and the new European taxonomy of sustainable activities, or the new regulations on sustainability or non-financial information that an increasing number of companies have to report.
At the country level, many have approved new legal figures for companies with purpose that, in addition to an economic return, generate a social and environmental benefit: in Spain it is called common interest benefit societyIn U.S.A, benefit corporation; in France, mission society; in Italy, society benefit and, in some Latin American countries, commercial society of benefit and collective interest.
The attraction and retention of talent also improves. Many professionals prefer to work in sustainable companies. Studies show that working men and women are more likely to apply for a job at a sustainable company, sometimes earning even less money, and may even quit their job if their company has a poor corporate reputation.
Something similar happens with the demand for products: global consumers are more attracted to sustainable companies. In January 2020, almost half of European citizens and three out of four Chinese citizens considered climate change as the greatest threat to society.
That translates to the fact that, according to a survey conducted by IBM, more than half of global consumers are willing to pay more for more sustainable products, or take it into account when choosing a brand. 70% of consumers urge their family or friends not to associate with brands or companies that are perceived as unsustainable.
the other factors
Many other factors also related to sustainability, such as inclusion and diversity in staff and management, promote productivity and innovation. Sustainability must also be accompanied by thinking in the medium and long term, where the benefits will have the greatest impact.
All these factors make sustainable companies increasingly competitive. Not in vain, the position of a company’s sustainability manager is one of the 20 that, according to LinkedIn, have grown the most in Spain in 2022 and that companies demand the most.
So let’s go back to the return to work, to the desire to do something about eco-anxiety and to transform the company or institution into a more sustainable organization. If so, there is no doubt about it, not only is it a duty towards society and the planet, but it will also give us greater competitiveness. May that little voice that generates resistance to change not turn off our illusion.