Economic circumstances often define and dictate business perceptions. In recent years, our sustainability consulting observed most business, large and small, cutting back on operational spending, capital investment, and on internal resources. Frankly, business sustainability took on a whole different meaning to most looking to simply weather the storm. Common business sustainability strategies across industries included:
• Live within cash flow
• Do some business high-grading: redistribute resources to key assets
• Scale less profitable developments and operations to maintenance levels
• Establish positions to capture opportunities in the future
However, as the economic tide is shifting, we find one of the keys to long-term business sustainability is a conscious and continuous effort for improvement. By proactively reevaluating processes and strategies that directly affect a business and its stakeholders, companies are creating a sustainable advantage over the competition. Traditional business models have focused primarily on maintaining profitability. However, businesses are now including environmental and social impacts in the profitability equation. Executives are putting on their ‘green’ glasses and asking their current model some basic business sustainability questions:
• What are the current and future dynamics of the market?
• How are consumers responding to sustainable offerings in the current economic environment?
• How will ‘green’ consumer behavior change?
• What new market sectors will drive consumer behaviors for sustainable brands?
• How can businesses tweak current business sustainability strategies to successfully balance short and long term value capture?
• What is most likely on the horizon and what are the best actions to proactively respond?
So when is the time right for sustainability? We suggest the perfect time to regroup is right before the masses take action. Now may be the perfect time to get your house in order, build a sustainability plan for the future, and position your business to capture the opportunities that are on the horizon. By anticipating and taking proactive steps to address change in the business world, organizations can not only capture immediate value but can define themselves as a business sustainability leaders in their industry.