ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF SUSTAINABILITY
Sustainability and Businesses
Towards the end of the twentieth century, the world experienced enormous growth, both in the population and in economic dimensions. Consequently, these growth patterns have put the health of human population, and the whole environment at a risk. The major concerns that arise out of these growth patterns include global warming, resource depletion, loss of natural biodiversity, and deteriorating health standards. Earlier on, these problems of environmental concerns required regulatory approach, with greater attention placed on the final products from these various firms. However, with the impacts of the various concerns weighing heavily on businesses, there was need for formulating sustainability pathways. This trend has forced many businesses to create sustainability frameworks. Such endeavors, however, comes with additional expenses.
This paper will address the advantages and disadvantages of adopting sustainability strategies in any businesses enterprise.
Meaning of Sustainability
Broadly, sustainability refers to strategies in business that ensures long-term growth, and profitability through incorporation of environmental and social concerns in the business management framework. Sustainability focuses on the future of the companies and demands present changes that guarantee that future (The University of Vermont 2014, p.1). The main purpose of adopting sustainability strategies is to maximize the profits for the company, ensure consumer satisfaction, recognize the value of employees, and mange various risks that come from several environmental and social concerns. There two basic components of sustainability and these include the social and environmental dimension. The environmental dimension requires that businesses must decrease or eliminate altogether the harm that the production or consumption of their various products create on the environment. One major area that is continuously gaining attention is the amount of carbon dioxide associated with the consumption or production of a particular product.
The social dimension of sustainability entails the act of assisting the various members of a community through volunteering or other forms of donations from the company or the employees. Companies may also engage in training of the young members of the community in certain issues that raise their level of awareness, and thus improving the standards of living. Furthermore, businesses can achieve sustainability through a number of ways (The University of Vermont 2014, p.1). These include innovation and improvement in technology, collaboration, improvement of processes, and reporting on matters of sustainability. Innovation and improved technology allows waste reduction and efficient product design, while collaboration entails partnerships that facilitate sharing of knowledge. The process of collaboration greatly improves innovation. Most manufacturing processes may involve unwanted wastages. Such processes require improvement towards efficiency.
Benefits of Business Sustainability
Business is a vital aspect of human existences, however, there should always be new ways of doing things, and this includes business. Businesses require new and faster ways of innovating, and readily meeting the diverse market needs properly, and on international scale. Nevertheless, achieving these must not compromise the effectiveness of future operations. This requires better and very innovative ways of doing business (Willard 2012, p. 121). From this trend, the success of businesses in the future will depend on the ability to create value both within the business and outside it. To achieve these, businesses must adopt certain key strategies that ensure proper balance between competition and cooperation, production of goods and services while meeting the social and environmental requirements. Businesses must also shift to better practices that are not vulnerable to the advancement in social and environmental issues.
Businesses today cannot ignore the issues of sustainability. Those that can effectively do, face the ultimate risk of contravening legislations or welcoming commercial disadvantages. From the several benefits ranging from improving the value of the business to saving on the energy consumption, there are several advantages of sustainability as outlined below:
Increased Competitive Advantage
Reliable researches such as those conducted by Natural Marketing Institute found that the knowledge that companies are mindful of the environmental impacts of their products, and services make consumers have confidence with over fifty percent chances of buying from the company (Laszlo & Zhexembayeva 2011, p. 56). More researches show most adults make purchasing decisions based on the personal preferences, social, and environmental concerns (Lloyds Bank 2014, p.1). Most consumers are willing to spend almost 20% on products that are environmentally friendly. When products of equal quality and prices are compared, there is a tendency of most consumers in the United States buying goods and services from companies that produce energy efficient products, promote safety and health issues, improve labor and trade practices, and adhere to business practices that are environmentally friendly.
Lower Costs and Higher Productivity
As most firms explore better sustainability practices, most of the upcoming methods of production will be very efficient leading to higher productivity. Increase in the productivity levels lead to considerable reduction in the costs. This is because the profit earned per unit product greatly multiplies (Friedman 2014, p.1). A lower cost of production also comes through shifting from oil, coal, or hydroelectric power to green energies such as solar or wind energy. Moreover, better practices such as recycling, reduced packaging, reuse of materials, proper management of inventories, better technologies, and reduced transport costs all lead to increased revenues.
Improved Opportunities for Investment
Most companies that adopt energy efficiency and low environmental impacts perform well in the financial markets and thus attract better investment opportunities (Friedman 2014, p.1). Most companies that have adopted sustainability strategies always outperform their competitors and enjoy improved revenues.
Minimum Carbon Risks and Energy Efficiency
Most business analysts agree that failure to respond to environmental concerns, and adopt methods that are energy efficient constitutes a major business risk. This comes at a time when most energy experts are predicting that the cost of energy will double in the next decade. There are also regulations that will ensure companies cut their carbon emission by 25% by the year 2020, or almost to 80% by the year 2050 (Friedman 2014, p.1). With scarcity of energy sources and rising costs, such regulations will greatly affect companies that shall have not adopted sustainability strategies at the time.
Employee Retention and Recruitment
With the increasing environmental awareness, potential employees would wish to work in companies that effectively address environmental and social concerns (Laszlo & Zhexembayeva 2011, p. 150). The development of proper corporate ethical culture or implementation of the corporate social responsibility greatly influences employee motivation.
Protection of Business from External Attacks
Sustainable management practices help the business survive certain strict regulatory standards, and possible reputation issues. Social and environmental issues more than often attract litigations on the business. Dealing with such issues creates additional costs that lower the profit margin. Such litigation issues may come from customers, employees, or the members of the community. Moreover, sustainable practices reduce attack from the media, rights groups, and government agencies.
Disadvantages of Business Sustainability
The growing tendency in the field of business is going green, and being socially sensitive. Of the greatest importance and dynamic in nature is the concept of environmental friendliness. Most experts agree that though it is important to embrace sustainability, there are many obstacles towards its achievement (Joseph 2014, p.1). Firstly, the transition expense is very high. It is very costly for any company to go green. As outlined earlier, embracing green energies require the installation of solar panels or windmills. The cost of making such installations is usually high and may not pay off in the short run. This pattern makes the endeavors of going green sometimes impossible. Secondly, embracing sustainability by going green readily leads to certain class of products that are very costly to the consumers. This results from the scarcity of most green raw materials that some firms employ in the manufacturing process. Greenworks Company in Florida imports most of its raw materials from as far as Asia.
Thirdly, there are some biases regarding the certifications that allow companies to go green. In the year 2010, less than fifty Florida companies had received certification verifying their commitment and implementation to green energy measures. Moreover, most companies relax in adopting their green plans since other firms in the same industry reluctantly pursue environmental friendliness and proceed with business in the normal manner. Fourthly, one of the ways of going green is to turn to paperless methods. This requires employees to use computers for processing, and storing vital or sensitive information (Joseph 2014, p. 1). This practice is subject to loss of data through theft, system crash among other unforeseen incidences. Lastly, most companies make false claims regarding the methods of sustainability employed in the production of their finished products; however, if customers discover such false claims, the company may sustain irreparable harm on its credibility. Additionally, most businesses have short-term plans that include making of immediate profits, interaction with agents like contractors, financiers, and even consultants. There is also high level of competition to the extent that adopting sustainability measures reduces the competitive advantage particularly against those that operate normally.
There are sufficient obstacles that hinder the implementation of sustainable business practices, however, numerous avenues still exist that business can explore to achieve sustainability. Such avenues will enable businesses to respond well to social as well as environmental issues. Since every business will have to adopt sustainability options, it is incumbent upon any business to identify their most suitable sustainability option without undermining their core objectives. This will ensure that they enjoy the competitive advantage.
Joseph, C 2014, The disadvantages of going green for a corporation, viewed 18 March 2014, <http://smallbusiness.chron.com/disadvantages-going-green-corporation-3318.html>.
Heinberg, R 2011, The end of growth: adapting to our new economic reality, New Society Publishers, New York.
Friedman, J 2014, Six benefits of sustainability, viewed 18 March 2014, <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-friedman/sustainable-business_b_1576400.html>.
Laszlo, C & Zhexembayeva, N 2011, Embedded sustainability: the next competitive advantage, Stanford Business Books, New York.
Lloyds Bank 2014, Sustainability benefits, viewed 18 March 2014, <http://businesshelp.lloydsbankbusiness.com/managing/sustainability/benefits/>.
The University of Vermont 2014, What does sustainability mean in business, viewed 18 March 2014, <http://www.universityofvermontonline.com/what-does-sustainability-mean-in-business/>.
Willard, B 2012, The new sustainability advantage: seven business case benefits of triple bottom line, New Society Publishers, New York.
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