“Doing the right thing” versus the bottom line

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Meaghan Farrell
Strategic Consulting

Where does the intersection occur between “doing the right thing” and making a positive impact on a company’s bottom line? It can be very challenging to attain senior leadership support without proving that a sustainability program will have significant cost savings and/or increased revenue, especially in an economic downturn.

But what about doing the right thing for the environment?  Corporations cause $2.2 trillion in environmental damage every year[1].  This alarming fact has led employees, customers, investors, the media and other stakeholders to push corporations to make significant changes through initiatives like grass roots programs, sustainable purchasing decisions, socially responsible investment indexes and competitive rankings.

We have found that these two ideas do not have to be conflicting.  By creating a quantitative business case, one can prove the value of developing a sustainability program. In one client example, we were able to show that a robust program could yield a “lift” of 2.5 to 3.5 cents per share.  Seeing concrete numbers makes it is much easier for a CFO to commit to funding a sustainability program.  Once the team has an approved business case and plan, it can then implement the identified projects (e.g. recycling, energy efficiency, new revenue products, corporate travel reduction, sustainability procurement program and external disclosure) and, in doing so, engage stakeholders in their quest to “do the right thing.”

[1] Young, Tom.  “Corporations Cause $2.2T in Environmental Damage Every Year.”  GreenBiz.com. February 19, 2010.

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