About seven months ago we embarked on a big project — to write a book about how sustainability is reshaping business.
Our initial hypothesis was that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), launched in 2015, have been a rallying cry for companies to act, inspiring them to put sustainability at the core of their strategy and operations.
In our view, business is at a fundamental crossroads, with the age of the shareholder slowly being replaced by that of the stakeholder. Profit maximization, while still a critical metric for assessing companies’ success, is no longer the sole factor. We are waking up to the reality that what is good for society — and thus by definition for the environment — is good for business.
Read the Air cofounders Trista Bridges and Donald Eubank will publish the "A New Contract" this year, an investigation of how businesses are progressing in the journey to align their strategy with the UN SDGs and the best practices in doing so
"Leading Sustainably" is based on interviews conducted over the past year with large multinationals, mission-driven company pioneers, those leading the sustainable finance revolution, and those who are providing the tools to make the transition to a sustainable business model
We’ve learned that this transition is truly a journey rather than a race — we’re in the early stages and there’s much work to do to bring everyone up to the same level of knowledge and ambition when it comes to sustainability
For a preview of our findings in "Leading Sustainably", download our paper “Everything or Anything, How Businesses Can Start with the SDGs” here
To go even further, the concept of sustainability is no longer seen in the same vein as risk management. It can and has become an important opportunity driver for businesses, both small and large alike.
In essence, the old contract where business took care of the money-making part and governments, both central and local, the “societal” part is, for better or worse, rapidly becoming out of date. We believe a new contract between business and society is in order.
With this guiding vision, we set off to interview those who are at the front lines of managing, advising and supporting businesses going through this transition. When we began this project, we were unsure the type of response we’d get. Both Donald and I had been on the journalism side before, myself as a tech blogger and Donald as a features editor for The Japan Times. We were certainly not seasoned book authors.
Fortunately, we didn’t need to worry as the response to our book idea was overwhelming. We spoke with various people and companies, from large multinationals such as Coca Cola, Givaudan, Citibank, Ricoh, H&M, Novo Nordisk and Engie, to mission-driven company pioneers, including KEEN, Toad & Co, method and TBM-Limex, from those leading the sustainable finance revolution, such GIIN, Calvert Impact Capital and Intentional Media, to those who are providing the information, tools and platform for companies to make the transition, UN Global Compact, the World Bank, WBCSD-Taiwan and Japan’s IGES.
Many of those we spoke with have been at the frontlines advocating for a change in how we do business for well over 10 years, often beating against the current when doing so. They were refreshingly honest about the fact that while many of the organizations they work for or with have made progress, the business community as a whole still has a ways to go to truly revamp commonly accepted business models.
Although our initial hypothesis has proven to be somewhat correct, we’ve learned that this transition is truly a journey rather than a race — and were we’re still very much in the early stages.
While many of the thought leaders we spoke with are highly knowledgeable about sustainability concepts and have a clear idea of where business needs to go, most of those involved in or supporting the current business system have not yet fully bought into the idea of “sustainability as a top business priority” yet.
Not surprisingly, there’s much work to do to bring everyone up to the same level, in terms of knowledge as well as ambition, when it comes to sustainability.
Nevertheless, we discovered many best practice models for employees of all levels, entrepreneurs, and other business community leaders to follow. In our upcoming book, titled “Leading Sustainably -- The path to sustainability and how the SDGs changed everything”, we highlight many examples of the progress businesses are making on their sustainability journeys and offer tips on how organizations can get started or accelerate their own transition.
We are now wrapping up our writing and moving to publish within the next few months. We look forward to sharing further updates with you and hope you will read “Leading Sustainably” when it’s released! Stay tuned!
To find out details of when and where the book will be released, please join our mailing list
For a preview of our findings in "A New Contract," download our paper “Everything or Anything, How Businesses Can Start with the SDGs” here
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