Sustainability has become part of our everyday business lexicon, yet the concept is often poorly understood. Some fling sustainability platitudes about with gay abandon, though their deeds don’t match their words. Others are sidetracked by issues not relevant to their business. And many ignore sustainability, remaining mired in the mindset ‘profits at any cost’.
Simply put, corporate sustainability advocates pursuing profits in a way that is more responsible by taking into account broader stakeholder interests. The premise is that responsible business is good for society and less harmful to the environment, thereby ensuring business success over the long haul. Yet on the back of this comes a plethora of codes and standards that can distract management from their core purpose.
In addressing this emerging imperative, business has a choice. It can opt for the knee-jerk approach by drawing up a ‘laundry list’ of responses – from BEE and CSI to switching off lights and recycling paper – and set up a team to tick all the ‘right’ boxes. Or it can integrate sustainable business thinking with strategy, stakeholder relations and risk management. We believe this is the smarter choice. It views sustainability as a set of opportunities and a route to competitive differentiation, in this way serving the long-term interests of both shareholders and society.
Compiled each quarter, The Trialogue Sustainability Review brings different perspectives on this captivating topic to Financial Mail readers. In this edition, we examine the business case for sustainability. Our Quarterly Review looks at developments that are shaping business practice. We consider the implications of the King III Report, which is moving sustainability into corporate boardrooms. Our review of media reportage shows how sustainability coverage promotes or damages company reputation. And we put the spotlight on the financial sector, examining the inter-relationship between good financial business and societal benefit.
We hope it will provide some pointers along your pathway to responsible, sustainable business.