Sustainability as a Strategy;
Global Shift Towards Social Responsibility

It's hard to imagine a time when there wasn’t enthusiasm for innovation as a core concept. Only recently have we recognized the magnitude of adaptation to our external environments.  Historically, leaders have focused their attention on diversification as a means for achieving success. Most great ideas were a result of intuition from personal experiences and were implemented because of biases towards profit maximization by any means necessary.  As we evolved into a global marketplace, innovation became critical to organizational survival and maintenance of economic strength. Innovation quite literally changes the world.  It is now widely accepted that systemic change is essential to ensuring conservation of resources and protection of the planet.  The way society has historically operated does not support sustainability. In the future, organizational agility is critical as we are forced to evolve.  Everyone, including the largest of organizations, is in the midst of a fundamental shift towards the sustainable fulfillment of social and environmental responsibility.

A massive global shift in the value placed on sustainability is important for reducing the impact on our planet and preserving resources for future generations. Companies must now ingrain sustainability into their cultures as a core value and use innovation to derive strategies that promote both success and social responsibility. Cultural changes are extremely challenging on any scale due to inherent fear of change. Businesses are challenged to invest in innovation and develop sustainable operations without sacrificing long-term profit margins.  

The current consumer places significant value on sustainability and is loyal to brands who share similar ethical beliefs. Technological advancements and the development of social media have created an avenue for shared information. When instances of unethical behavior are discovered, the information is virally spread across the globe. Due to the powerful voices of consumers, businesses are tasked with protecting their reputations through increased focus on the environment. Consumers are passionate about brands that show a commitment to social and environmental responsibility. The impact is corporations branding themselves through sustainability. Strategic decisions now include goals focused on the reduction of carbon footprint in an attempt to form an emotional connection with individuals. Brands are finally eyeing the long-term future over short-term gains and understanding the strategic benefits of sustainable operational procedures.  Cultures within these organizations are centered on ethical practices and becoming good stewards of the environment.  Consumer values have motivated companies to develop revolutionary ideas and created a global focus on sustainable practices.  Ironically, innovative technology is what provided the consumer with a powerful voice.  It would be foolish to ignore the large segment that places environmental practices above price in purchasing decisions.  Successful companies are great at customer segmentation and have intelligently allocated the necessary resources to align with consumer values.

There is a good analogy for what lies ahead. “If the mountain was smooth, it would be harder to climb.”  If additional consumers place value on green initiatives, companies will be forced to align their standards to maintain brand loyalty.  One thing we can guarantee is that successful companies allocate resources to align their internal environment with external factors.  Continue promoting the change because as you can see, it’s having an impact.  Support the companies who are motivated to improve the environment and others will follow.   Perfect competition always leads to imitation.

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Elon Musk is a pioneer in terms of innovation and sustainability.  This evening, March 31, 2016, Tesla began accepting pre-orders for the Model 3 at a price point catered to everyday consumers.  Clean energy and reusable resources are the motivation behind Tesla, SolarCity, and SpaceX.

Apple’s Liam Robot is the company’s answer to improved recycling of electronic devices.  The robot deconstructs your old phone and sorts the reusable materials.

New Belgium Brewery was founded with sustainability as one of their core values.  They are setting the standard for sustainable business operations through innovation. giving a new meaning to the term, green beer.

Michigan State University has developed a fully transparent solar panel that can power almost any device.  They will begin with mobile phones but have aspirations of utilizing their technology to power skyscrapers across the globe.

It’s time to redefine the making of making.  Nike invests resources in manufacturing with a focus on innovation towards sustainability.