Unfortunately this doesn’t apply to sustainability anymore. Here’s two eye-opening sentences for you about sustainability. First one being an official study from UN Intergovernmental Panel’s (IPCC) Climate Change Report that states: “We have about 12 years left.” Alarming, right?
The second one I “stole” from Miska Rajasuo who said this to me in a discussion (please Miska, correct me if I’m saying it wrong):
In short term, sustainability will change peoples and companies lives more than the arrival of the Internet! — Miska Rajasuo, CEO of Bob the Robot
I truly believe in that. Even if you don’t care about sustainability, you can’t really run away from it and from what the word is doing to every single industry out there.
To really understand what sustainability is I’ll start by defining it:
Sustainability focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. The concept of sustainability is composed of three pillars: economic, environmental, and social — also known informally as profits, planet, and people.”
Like I wrote in an earlier blog post “Anything can be sustainable if you have a good copywriter”, sustainability is often being used falsely as a key to get in. Sometimes intentionally, but often unintentionally.And that’s in many cases because sustainability is not black or white. There is no straight line to draw “these are sustainable and these aren’t…”
Sustainability is always a combination of things: where they are being produced (delivery, CO2), by whom (people, companies and work conditions) and with what materials (recycled, re-used, re-generation etc.). A good place to find out more about the larger picture of sustainability is: https://bcorporation.net
FYI. We at Framme are on the process of becoming a certified B-Corp. More about this later.
I personally respect both roads. What I hate is when someone is trying to wiggle in the middle – underestimating people. A negative example of the underestimation are these 2030 -sustainability goals.
Nothing wrong with the goals themselves, but if they are just goals, without any commitment, process or concrete steps towards the target….well “a goal without a plan is just a wish.”
I can also understand the 2030-goals, if they are from big companies. I mean big ships turn slow. But if a small or medium size company makes a 2030 project – I’m being frank – that’s bullshit! That’s just an excuse of not having to do anything right now.
Given that the lifetime expectancy of a modern day company: How many of those small or medium sized companies will even be alive after 11 years…?
Sustainability as a competitive advantage.
Sustainability is in my opinion a huge opportunity. An opportunity to create something new, shake the existing industry giants and even beat them in a totally new playing field and a set of rules – a playing field and rules that you actually have a real chance of creating.
Then there’s the positive aspect of being a part of saving the world.
The reason why I’m convinced that you actually can break or make your own rules, is that after a little bit of research and thinking, understanding what sustainability is for you and for your company, is in the end rather simple.
On top of understanding, we all have our own set of values that can support the sustainability process, so in the end, working in a sustainable way is actually rather easy. It’s not rocket science – it’s basically all about your morale, ethics and decisions. Decisions are sometimes risky, but when you’re smaller you’re also more agile than the big ones.
Sustainability is not rocket science. It’s basically all about your morale, ethics and decisions.
However, the big challenge comes after you understand you doing it alone is pretty much worthless.
If you want to change the world and make your industry more sustainable or even make sustainability as your competitive advantage (in short term), you can’t do it alone. Good thoughts are just good thoughts. Doing something alone don’t change anything.
Therefore, people need to hear what you are doing, they need to experience and feel what you are doing and they need to buy into that – with real money. No matter if you’re a company or a charity.And to get people on board we need marketing and sales. We need to get other people’s attention, influence and lobby them to our side.
Then comes the hardest part.
Making sustainability your competitive advantage will be difficult.
Nobody in your target audience really understands the environmental reports you write or certifications you have. They are secondary facts.
With stories and by involving your customers to sustainability initiatives you can get more done.
Here’s the brutal truth. If you want people on board, the environmental reports you write or certificates you have are secondary. Not useless but secondary. Don’t get me wrong, you must have them. Some external party has to verify that you don’t just talk-the-talk but also walk-the-walk.
But (almost) nobody on your target audience actually reads them or understands them. They are just boring facts. People’s time is so limited. A person living in a city faces 5 000 advertisement stimulus in a day, according The Yankelovich Center study (2007). And that was 2007. Now it’s estimated to be over 10 000 stimulus a day!
So we consciously and unconsciously use our time only on information, ideas and thoughts that in the first nanoseconds feel that they can be meaningful to us: 95 % of the purchasing decisions are subconscious, 90 % emotional (according to Harvard University research done by Gerald Zaltman).
We need the facts (the certificates, the reports, etc.), but they are basically only needed to support the decision after the emotional choice has (most often) already been made. So to get people to care, it’s all about making them experience and feel.
Turn your sustainability efforts into a story.
This blog post has been so filled with facts, that I want to add here some links to excellent examples of making sustainability a meaningful experience and a story:
NikeLab, Nudie Jeans, Humanium Metal, Triwa Watches from Humanium
Sustainability is not a megatrend. If it’s meaningful to you and business, you can still make it as a huge competitive advantage.