Sustainable choices need to be profitable

For businesses, as well as for people in general, making sustainable choices needs to be profitable in order to be viable. Pretending otherwise is foolish. But contrary to what many believe, sustainability and profitability are not mutually exclusive – quite the opposite.

For example, cutting down on fuel and energy consumption is something that any business will profit from – lower consumption means lower costs, as well as lower emissions. This also goes for material usage - the minute we stop looking at something as trash and start looking at it as something valuable, we flip the switch, and something that was previously considered waste can even surpass the original product in value.

During last year's Oslo Innovation week (2018), Helle Moen, together with a number of presenters, discussed different ways of approching and building a sustainable future.

Using the rationale of business

When working towards a sustainable future, it is key to involve and challenge the private sector. Businesses make decisions based upon an expected result, usually a profit. Hence, once a company sees the benefit of making sustainable choices, it will be followed through and the results can be measured in the so-called ‘triple bottom line’ (finance, society and environment). That said, public policies and regulations are still important to create a sustainable society, and sometimes financial incentives such as lower taxation or project support may be needed in a transition period.

One good example of the useful rationale of business is Blackrock – the largest investment fund in the world. Their CEO, Larry Fink, wrote in his annual letter to the shareholders about how companies need to embrace a purpose beyond “just profit," where he made a significant impact in the business world and stirred up a discussion.

What can you do?

It can seem like a daunting task "becoming sustainable." And for many, it is. But there are many ways to get started. At EGGS, we have developed what we call SDG cards. These cards are a type of method cards based on the 17 SDG goals (the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for the year 2030) which can help organisations to identify areas and specific actions they can take towards more sustainable operations. Examples of these business are: reducing water consumption in production, reducing electricity consumption, improving gender balance, switching to more sustainable suppliers, etc. Depending on what your core business is and what your reality looks like, the exercise will generate different types of suggestions.

There are 17 SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that all leave great opportunities for companies, organisations and governments to improve their sustainability work. With our (EGGS') sustainability cards, this work can be facilitated, through hands-on tips on actions that companies can take to reach the goals.

The art of measuring results

Reporting on a triple bottom line may still be challenging. Economics and finances have been based on traditional systems which don't mirror effects on the environment or society for a very long time, and things take time to change. We need to establish new ways for accurately and effectively measuring sustainability. One example of a tool that can help you do this is the climate impact calculator by our client Ducky. Their easy to use tool allows both companies and private persons to calculate your climate impact, and how much of a difference any changes generate. In a fun and intelligent way, it uses gamification to motivate people to achieve environmentally friendly work processes.

So, there are steps to take to become sustainable and contribute to a better future. And it doesn’t have to reduce profitability. In fact, it can help you save money and do better business. We just have to know where to look and use the available tools to get there.