Sustainable Responsible Business: Planting Corporate Seeds for Social Good [INFOGRAPHIC]
Executives are increasingly recognizing that developing a reputation for sustainable responsible business practices can help companies grow.
Sustainability has become a buzzword that can mean any number of different things. The Oxford English Dictionary offers these three definitions of the word (among others):
1. “Capable of being upheld or defended as valid, correct or true”
2. “Capable of being maintained or continued at a certain rate or level”
3. “Designating forms of activity (especially of an economic nature) in which environmental degradation is minimized, particularly by avoiding the long-term depletion of natural resources”
In today’s business language, sustainability may be used with any or all of these definitions. For example: Generating electricity from wind power is sustainable, while burning coal is not.
Responsibility adds another layer of consideration to business practices. It implies that the company will not only avoid depleting natural resources, but it will also treat stakeholders fairly — by paying living wages and maintaining positive community relationships, for instance.
A Case Study: TOMS
The footwear industry has unfortunately become well known for unethical business practices, such as manufacturing shoes in sweatshops with wasteful materials like rubber and leather. But TOMS is trying to turn that reputation around. They sell vegan shoes in 80 percent-recycled boxes printed with soy ink, and for every pair of shoes they sell, they donate another pair to a child in a developing country. While TOMS shoes are manufactured in China and other developing countries, the corporation requires its manufacturers to certify that their operations and supply chains follow all local laws, especially labor laws.
A Second Case Study: Starbucks
Since the first Starbucks coffee shop opened, the company has become a global brand with thousands of stores. Although greening a business built around disposable cups is a challenge, the corporation has committed to change. New stores are built according to LEED green design standards, and the company has cut its electricity consumption by 7.5 percent and water consumption by 17 percent since 2008. (Those reductions naturally translate into utility bill savings.) Five cents are also donated to water and sanitation programs for every bottle of Ethos water the coffee chain sells. Additionally, the company claims that by 2015, the 4 billion cups it hands out each year will all be recyclable or reusable.
Sustainable responsible business practices have been shown to help corporations with their bottom lines. Ultimately, sustainability and responsibility contribute to a more complete vision of what business is or should be in both economic and human terms. Whether you plan on working in the public sector or the private sector, it’s worthwhile for us all to think about the ways in which business affects the world and how that relationship can be better. The infographic below provides a broader picture of the ways sustainable responsible businesses operate and ideas for the future. Brought to you by USC’s Social Work In Business Program
Gabriela D. Acosta is the community manager for the University of Southern California’s Online MSW programs and manages the social work blog for Social Work License Map. She is passionate about social justice, community organizing and leadership development. Connect with her on Twitter @Gabyacosta101