Doable sustainability: when ethics and profit coexist

Consumers are growing more and more concerned about sustainability. According to this trend, the companies that fail to address the matter properly and in good time are running the risk of being overshadowed by more longsighted ones. That is why in this article we will introduce the concept of “doable sustainability” as a crucial business tool.

 

In the light of the increasing popularity of sustainable products, many manufacturers and retailers are eager to include sustainability in their agendas and codes of ethics. Nevertheless, when push comes to shove most of the managers are still giving priority to profit – and even if a fair number of shoppers is not ready to put their money where their mouth is, consumers and governments are currently closing ranks and scrutinising major industries’ environmental impact.

 

In this fast changing scenario, companies must be prepared to promptly integrate themselves in stricter, more demanding governmental policies as well as keep up with the consumers’ growing level of awareness. Unfortunately, achieving sustainability could seem to be entirely on the shoulders of the companies: even if a large share of consumers claim to care about sustainability, only a small part of the market is currently ready to pay more for sustainable products.

 

As most customers expect manufacturers and retailers to absorb the higher costs of fairer, greener products, companies must find a way to reduce the difference in cost without charging the buyers. Marks & Spencer, for example, about ten years ago started implementing new strategies aimed at achieving sustainability while cutting preexisting costs. As a result, the company found out new ways of saving water, energy, fuel, and waste-related expenses – definitely a win-win-win.

 

By containing costs along the whole supply chain, every company could be able to pursue sustainability without worrying about substantial impacts on margins. In this scenario, sustainability is a (relatively) easy target to achieve and it is able to attract an interesting market share. Moreover, as the demand for sustainable goods keeps on growing, sustainability can also turn into a unique selling proposition that could draw the consumers’ attention and convert them into loyal customers.

 

Looking beyond short-term profit margin, sustainability is an incredible chance to enhance brand profiles and expand the reference market: if customers consider sustainability to be “the right thing” , when they find it to be affordable too their purchasing decisions will be enthusiastically consistent. If between a sustainable, green product and its non-ethical counterpart there is no huge difference in cost, who would give up on the pleasure of doing the right thing?