Marketing strategist, Gina Carr once identified Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as the key strategic differentiator for the 21st century. Jed Emerson, a leader in the field of strategic philanthropy, talks about the concept of Blended Value—the powerful combination of social and fiscal responsibility. According to these experts, it is no longer realistic to judge a business on its financial performance alone. It’s no longer meaningful to measure results purely in terms of Return on Investment (ROI). When revenue generation meets social value, the truly rewarding result is Social Return on Investment (SROI).
In a relatively short period of time, successful companies have moved from measuring their achievements by means of a single, dollar-focused bottom line to introducing a double bottom line that adds metrics for social responsibility, and then embracing a triple bottom line—also known as a TBL or 3BL—that adds the measure of sustainability by tracking environmental performance. Sometimes referred to as the three pillars of “people, planet, profit”—a term first introduced by John Elkington in 1995—the 3BL approach requires producers to extend their responsibility, by managing their products from cradle to grave, and shift the corporate focus from shareholders to stakeholders—all the people, internal and external, who are most directly influenced and affected by a company’s products and actions.
The added value of using natural capital management to boost your 3BL
The concept of natural capital management focuses on a company’s impact on natural resources. This expression of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), aimed at minimizing an organization’s environmental footprint, refers to sustainable management of resources. It involves reducing energy consumption, minimizing the use of non-renewable resources, reusing raw materials by employing closed-loop manufacturing processes and reducing manufacturing waste by making more responsible packaging choices. Natural capital management also involves judicious waste management through recycling and safe disposal of hazardous materials.
Environmental responsibility and corporate profitability are no longer seen as mutually exclusive. More and more companies are embracing EPR and demonstrating that it is possible to grow business in a socially responsible way—doing well by doing good, according to Gina Carr. Organizations that include sustainability as a measure of success have found a way to set themselves apart from the competition, a way to contribute to the rapidly growing green economy. By adding a social and environmental focus to their corporate activities, by strengthening their green credentials, they are well positioned to increase brand awareness and loyalty and they are likely to be more successful at attracting and retaining committed employees. With a sustainable strategy, a company’s contented stakeholders can also become its brand ambassadors.
Consumer demand for environmental responsibility
By reclaiming valuable materials for reuse, recycling turns post-consumer waste into valuable, energy-efficient raw materials, reducing our country’s reliance on virgin resources. Ontario research in 2012 and 2013 reveals a healthy consumer appetite for recycling, with 83 per cent of the 2,000 people surveyed by public opinion and market research experts, Pollara, recognizing the impact recycling has on environmental, economic and social factors. More than 80 per cent of the survey’s respondents think that products tend to be over-packaged, and 88 per cent agree that manufacturers and retailers have an obligation to provide more environmentally friendly solutions and choices.
Consumers admire and support the companies that proactively make efforts to reduce packaging, encourage recycling and reuse raw materials from printed paper and packaging recycling programs. Research has also shown that a recycling program can change consumer buying habits. For example, a 2011 poll showed that Ontario’s Blue Box recycling program has been responsible for changing the types of packaging many consumers bring into the home. Consumers expect manufacturers and retailers to share their attitude to sustainability, by reducing packaging and making it more environmentally friendly. In fact, recycling-friendly packaging has become a measure of a manufacturer’s environmental commitment.
Although consumers consider a number of factors when assessing the environmental attitude of products and packaging, acceptance in a recycling program is paramount. Respondents in a 2011 survey said they were attracted by products made from recycled materials, as well as ones with less packaging, and 70 per cent of them consciously choose environmentally friendly products, suggesting that sustainability produces loyalty. Given the choice, the majority of people surveyed said they would buy products with recyclable packaging and many refuse to buy products from companies who they believe don’t demonstrate sustainable practices and are not considered environmentally friendly.