Understanding how sustainability makes good business

As the overwhelming majority of Americans support the importance of protecting the environment, it is no surprise that sustainability plays a role in everything from attracting Millennials to join a company to keeping shareholders happy.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, the majority of Millennials say they want businesses to focus on people, society and purpose rather than just profit. This sentiment echoes their desire to work for businesses that share their values and satisfy their sense of purpose.

Millennials’ views on sustainability aren’t limited to their employment preferences. According to one Nielson study, Millennials are also most willing to pay extra for sustainable products. And as the largest consumer segment, their purchasing power can have a significant impact on today’s businesses.

For example, according to a recent Harvard Business Review article, sustainability is one of the fastest growing causes among shareholders as it relates to investor activism — efforts undertaken by the shareholders with the aim of influencing a change in a company’s process, business model, management practice, etc.

In his article, George Serafeim, Associate Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School writes, “A substantial amount of investor activism appears to be motivated by social or environmental aims. Investors can be a driver for social responsibility and, at least when focused on material issues, can improve both societal and financial outcomes at the same time.”

Entrepreneur points out many ways a business can act in a socially responsible way that also has a positive impact on the bottom line.  Two examples listed in this article include using teleconferencing instead of traveling for face-to-face meetings and allowing employees to telecommute. Both of these tactics reduce the amount of natural resources used, while saving the company money and saving the workers’ time.

Making a company operate in a more sustainable way compliments a desire to make operations more efficient.  And, by inviting employees to brainstorm ways to save resources, it can help shape the culture of the company.

At Limestone College, students earning a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration will have an opportunity to explore the topic of sustainability in BA 310/BA 310H Ethical Issues in the Workplace. The primary objectives of this course are to expose students to many of the interrelationships, issues, philosophies, and points of view that affect the relationship between business and society.