In October of 2012, authors Aron Cramer and Zachary Karabell published the book “Sustainable Excellence: The Future of Business in a Fast-Changing World.” This work outlined several predictions about the changing landscape of business and the rising need for sustainable business practices. According to the authors, the changing concept of sustainability in business would affect how businesses operate, how they negotiate on a B2B level and how they communicate with consumers. Additionally, this interest in sustainable business practices would create a need for “green” products and technologies across every industry.
If you own a growing LLC, you probably want to find strategies to keep your business successful at a sustainable pace while doing good things for your customers (and for the planet). This is an ideal time to review some key points about sustainable business practices, as well as how they apply to today’s world of business and your survival strategy in the coming years.
Embracing Corporate Sustainability
First of all, the authors point out that aiming toward “sustainable excellence” will be the hallmark of every brand identity over the next quarter century. Many business leaders, business thinkers and economic policymakers are still adjusting to the profound impact of the “Great Recession” that lasted from 2007 through 2009, which was the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The impact of this recession was global, which the authors believe presented businesses with opportunities to “think big” in terms of solving worldwide issues.
In our inter-connected world, innovations in one part of the world can help solve problems or jump-start an industry across the globe. These opportunities paved the way for companies such as General Electric to embrace environmental innovations and sustainable solutions. Meanwhile, IBM began focusing on how they can help create a smarter planet through several initiatives that continue to this day.
We can see this kind of attention to sustainability in all kinds of industries. Of course, these changes aren’t solely a result of a need to save the planet. The corporate mindset has evolved to believe that creating efficiencies and innovations that save energy and resources are not just “nice to have” or good for public relations — sustainable business practices are also good for the bottom line. This attention to sustainability naturally inspires conversations about creating efficiencies, which often result in savings that increase profits. Focusing on the numbers is one element of business longevity that will never change. However, the financial benefits of focusing on sustainability aren’t limited to internal changes and business-to-business channels.
Large corporations understand that consumers are increasingly conscious of the environmental footprint of the products they buy. Now that we live in a “transparent” world, as the authors describe, companies can no longer hide their values...or hide from consumer criticism. Social media and the internet economy are built on communication between companies and consumers. In 2018, creating sustainable relationships between corporations and consumers means transparency — and that means giving personal attention to customers.
Sustainability Initiatives That Partner With Consumers
As a growing LLC, you may actually be in a stronger position to connect with your customers on a personal level — this is something that's notoriously difficult for larger companies. A focus on sustainability within the need for personalized marketing strategy aligns with the authors’ belief that corporations must work hand-in-hand with their customers to implement their sustainability initiatives. Inspiring customers to change their own habits requires an explanation about how the products are made and how they can be used in the most sustainable ways.
One example the authors point out is Levi Strauss & Co., the most recognizable brand in the denim industry. At the time of the book’s publication, Levi’s was beginning to tout their attention to sustainability. Fast-forward to today: Levi’s is still hard at work promoting their Water<Less and Waste<Less initiatives. The company estimates that they're using up to 96 percent less water in manufacturing some of their jean styles. Levi’s Waste<Less initiative takes the company’s focus on recycling and inserts it into their manufacturing process. Levi’s says their Waste<Less style of jeans are made from up to 20 percent post-consumer waste, and states that they have used almost 12 million recycled bottles in their products since 2013.
A Bigger Conception of Corporate Social Responsibility
The definition of corporate sustainability and ethical leadership has expanded as it has evolved. In a hyper-partisan political culture, corporations have not been able to remain as “above the fray” on political issues as they have in the past. More and more, corporations are having to take stances that can be seen as political. Coupled with the concept of sustainability, your LLC should also prepare for an era of “Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR). According to a recent article published in Forbes, sustainability and environmental awareness are still of the utmost importance. But so are issues related to diversity, sexual harassment and other broad concepts of CSR.
Several recent events have highlighted the fact that corporations are taking moral stances on hot-button political issues. Most recently, this was seen by several airlines’ refusal to transport migrant children who were caught up in the current immigration crisis. Another example was several storesthat decided to stop selling guns to people under 21 after the Parkland High School shooting.
Sustainable business practices are the keys to future success across all industries. Based on a continued focus on the environment, social issues and sustainability in an increasingly connected world, this "trend" doesn’t seem like it’s going to slow down any time in the future. If you're in the startup phase of your business, we recommend having a conversation about building a sustainable business model before going any further. After all, it could be a key to sustaining your business for the next quarter century.
Are you ready to start a business, form an LLC, or reorganize your business structure for a more sustainable future? Talk to Incfile today! Our incorporation experts can help you evaluate your options with state-specific advice.
Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.