In 2012 a solid majority of North American companies indicated that they had or were creating a sustainability plan. According to SCA’s Tork Report, the 2012 sustainability data was much improved compared to the year before. Their study shows that 64 percent of US companies had a sustainability plan or were planning to draft one in 2012. This is almost twice the number of American companies who indicated that they were doing so in 2011.
The survey which is titled “The Sustainability Gap,” indicates strong similarities in both the American and the Canadian data. A total of 31 percent of US firms and 30 percent of Canadian firms said their sustainability plans are having a positive impact on the bottom line. Only 12 percent of US companies and 10 percent of Canadian companies said their sustainability initiatives negatively impacted their bottom line. The rest (57 percent of US companies and 60 percent of Canadian companies) indicated they saw no impact on their bottom line.
“We’ve seen sustainability continue to be important to consumers and business alike,” said Mike Kapalko, Tork’s sustainability marketing manager. “A real area of concern is the gap; companies reporting they have sustainability plans, yet they ignore the risks to their business from climate change, severe weather, or unhealthy employee habits.”
One of the more interesting findings of the SCA research is that industry is quickly coming to the end of the first and easiest phase of sustainability initiatives, namely inexpensive cost cutting measures like greater efficiency.
SCA recommends that the best way to get to the next level of sustainability involves reducing food waste, adding a universal sustainability index, minimizing greenwashing and increasing workforce health,
1. Food Waste
Americans waste 40 percent of the nation’s food supply, the single biggest contributor to solid waste in landfills. According to the IMechE report titled “Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not,” between 30 percent and 50 percent of all the grain, fruits, vegetables and meats produced each year is thrown away. This amounts to nearly 2 billion metric tons (2.2 billion tons) of good food worldwide, much of which ends up rotting in landfills.
2. Universal Sustainability Index
A universal sustainability index is a guide to help consumers and companies make smarter product choices. Nearly 75 percent of Americans think a sustainability index would be a good idea, while only 26 percent of respondents said they would not use such an index for making a purchasing decision.
Reducing the amount of “green washing,” or false claims by companies that tout a product’s environmental benefits. The unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company undermines the value of product or service offerings of those who are legitimately green.
According to the report we do not take good care of ourselves. To address this issue sustainability plans should also incorporate issues related to the health of a company workforce. The SCA report advocates the three “P’s” of People, Planet and Profit.
To see the Sustainability Gap report click here.
© 2013, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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