Sustainability: Why Bother? The Benefits


In this, my inaugural article on sustainability, I specifically address the business case for sustainability in the building industry. However, much of the value I describe here also applies to businesses in general.

Without bees, our food chain would collapse.  By cross-pollinating, bees play an essential role in plant fertilization and growth. Similarly, sustainability has multiple cross-cutting benefits that promote business health and growth.

So why bother going green? What's the actual business case?


B = Brand
E = Engagement
E = Efficiency

BEE represents the primary benefits realized by pursuing a sustainability business agenda.

B – Brand.

Brand is your reputation - the perception that customers have about your company.  Customers connect to your brand, not your business. Having a green consciousness gives clarity to your company’s vision and values, making a strong statement that people identify with and appreciate.

Sustainability creates market differentiation.  Most companies are focused on “value”, “cost-effectiveness”, “quality”, and “performance”.  But sustainability goes further, connecting your company’s “what”, “how“, and “why” to the needs and desires of the larger world. It gives purpose to your brand, and benefits its reputation.

Sustainability also ensures that your company remains current in today’s world of evolving priorities. While social responsibility and sustainability might have seemed like nice to-dos just a few years ago, business practices that demonstrate these values is now increasingly expected.

E – Engagement.

Engagement follows closely on brand.  Once you have clearly articulated your sustainability purpose and aligned it with your business processes, people are motivated to support and learn about your brand - both internally and externally.

Internal to an organization, talent attraction, retention, and productivity are the main reasons given for having a sustainability focus.  More and more young professionals want to work for organizations that share their values. Instead of just competing on wages, firms are also appealing to and retaining staff based on their practices. Further, employees that are engaged with a company contribute more to the bottom-line and often create product and process improvements.

Externally, engaged customers are more likely to purchase from a company they like and feels familiar. Furthermore, engaged external stakeholders – such as suppliers, customers, investors, regulators, and advocacy groups - can provide insight into trends, market developments, and strategic opportunities.

E – Efficiency.

Efficiency is where most people sell sustainability.  Saving money by using less energy, sending less waste to the landfill, etc., is a valid entry point for most people.  But a broader view of efficiency opens up an array of other benefits.

First mover advantage: Those first to market with an innovation or skill get the recognition.  They are also well-positioned for incentives or green procurement opportunities.

Minimized cost-uptick: A company that has already integrated sustainability into their business model can integrate environmental strategies into the development process right from the start resulting in greater cost control.

Asset value: Greener buildings are easier to sell and lease. They also command higher rents and sale prices.

Lower operating costs: In addition to the savings from reduced energy and water use, lower long-term operations and maintenance costs often have a relatively short payback period. 

Workplace productivity and health: Healthier indoor environments can improve worker productivity and occupant health and well-being, resulting in bottom line benefits for businesses.

Risk mitigation: Green buildings buffer risks associated with rising energy prices, health impacts of material toxins and poor air quality, and regulatory risks including mandatory disclosure, building codes and laws banning inefficient buildings.

Hopefully this overview has intrigued you. If so, look for my monthly essays which will detail each of these topics more fully.