This handy tool for quantifying and selling the triple bottom line can be the sustainability officer’s friend.
“Downplay sustainability. Play up strategy,” said Bob Willard in his presentation at the Sustainable Brands Conference in San Diego in June.
Stressing practicality and defensible numbers, the author of “The New Sustainability Advantage: Seven Business Case Benefits of a Triple Bottom Line” introduced his handy dashboard, on which you can fill in your company’s numbers and calculate potential savings in energy, water, materials, reduced labor turnover and increased productivity.
“All my estimates are intentionally conservative,” said Willard. “In the end, the benefits end up being much greater.”
In her story “Connecting Inspiration to the Business Case,” Suzanne Shelton pointed to the need to bring sustainability discussions back to the bottom line, citing Willard as part of the answer.
In his book and his presentation, Willard is especially compelling on the subject of risks companies face in not carrying out sustainability strategies.
“When you are meeting with people in corporate offices who have a lot on their minds, who see sustainability as one more thing to worry about,” said Willard, “the word ‘risk’ can make their ears prick up.”
He talks about the risks of –
- poor reputation in energy and carbon management,
- higher employee turnover,
- lower employee productivity,
- cost of waste, and
- access to capital.
Referring to the last bullet, Willard asked, “Do providers of capital care about sustainability?” He pointed to the Ernst & Young/GreenBiz 2013 list of six growing trends in corporate sustainability, the sixth of which is, “Inquiries from investors and shareholders are on the rise.”
This study hammers home the point even more with three additional 2013 trends involving risk:
- No. 1: The “tone from the top” is key to heightened awareness and preparedness for sustainability risks.
- No. 3: Increased risk and proximity of natural resource shortages.
- No. 4: Corporate risk response is not well paired to the scale of sustainability challenges.
Willard’s strategies for making the business case may not be news to many corporate sustainability officers, but even as a picker-upper or refresher, his book and website are timely reminders of how the game is actually won in the C-Suite.