Business for Good – the Success Formula Going Forward

Business for good

By Jasper Steinhausen

There are huge opportunities for creating a competitive advantage for businesses that act on climate change now. The article highlights the importance of creating positive environmental impacts and rethinking business models, emphasizing that sustainability should be integrated into the core of business operations, not treated as a mere project.

From a business perspective, climate change is a massive disruption that picks up speed with every extreme weather event. We all feel the changes personally and the media feed it to us constantly. An ever-growing number of people conclude “somebody or to do something”. But still, they wish to continue being able to buy the goods and services they need in their lives – but without negatively impacting the lives of their children. The companies that innovate their products and services to become carbon-positive hold the keys to the future. 

Predicting the future is difficult, yet we know for certain that what drives sales is solving problems, removing pain points, and satisfying dreams. So, if we can identify a pain point that more and more people will get, we know it is a growing source of business opportunity. Climate change is now so certain to cause more chaos, destruction, and pain that you safely can tune your innovation capacity into contributing to solving the problem.

To put it in another way; people are ready to go to great lengths to avoid making radical changes to their lives. We see that all the time. So, if you can offer them your products or services in a version that they can consume knowing they are not part of the problem, you gain a massive competitive advantage.

You might say that this is no news, and you are partly right. But three things are changing.

  1. The changing climate is kicking in more than before. Everybody can tell a story of how the weather has been strange or wild just in the last year. It is starting to get into people. And remember every organization – your clients, regulators, partners, and investors – simply consists of people. We might be scared in private, but we can’t help bringing it to the workplace.

    Are you ready to face an increase in expectations and demands?
     
  2. The number of CEOs that get it and start to alter the course is growing. Some of them are your competitors….. the race is one and right now there are big business advantages to be gained before everybody gets onto their journey.

    Are you ready to face increased competition?
     
  3. CSRD (Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive) is coming into effect. Carbon footprint, ESG reporting and other types of less comprehensive reporting schemes are spreading as well. It will bring things out into the open. Let’s say that you use a material that causes a significant negative environmental impact. It is fully legal and no secret that you use it. You know it is not good for the world. Everyone does – but we don’t talk about it, and most don’t know how big a negative impact it has.

    With reporting it will be printed in black on white, and everyone can start to see the actual impact. I predict this will cause a new rise in activists and journalists who will utilize the disclosure of data to bring attention to environmental issues.

    Are you ready to find yourself on the front page?

What can you do?

The good news is that you can take action and turn the problems into opportunities and a powerful purpose-driven fuel for your organization. You might feel uncertain about how to lead such a green transition and that is perfectly natural, as you have never had it as part of your responsibility or education. But you have most of the tools you need, as this is just another way of doing business. Much of this transition will be about innovation and change management. So you will need all the skills, competences and tools you already possess and then a bit more on top. 

The single biggest elevation you need relates to the mindset and understanding of sustainability in business. Here are some of the most essential elements:

1. Start and end with business

Sustainability isn’t just an environmental or technical speciality. An effective sustainability effort can reduce costs, spike sales, boost loyalty, and attract talent to mention some of the classical areas of managerial attention. 

Therefore, I recommend starting by identifying the three to five biggest challenges in your company and for your core customers. Let that be the starting point and then use circular economy to find new ways to solve these problems. This way, sustainability efforts immediately gain a solid strategic transformation, greater focus, and higher value. It’s about creating business with built-in environmental impact.

2. Create a positive impact

Traditionally, sustainability focuses on minimizing negative impacts, and often the ultimate goal is zero. Zero CO2 emissions, zero waste, zero everything. However, businesses thrive on “more”: more profit, growth, products. Hence, sustainability seen as a constraint can feel counterintuitive. Instead, focus on leveraging sustainability to innovate and elevate what you offer. 

Frame it, think about it, and aim to create positive impact. When you use sustainability to strive for a new and better version of what you sell, it opens up creativity and taps into the human drive we have always had to make tomorrow better than yesterday. That is a significantly different energy compared to reduce, avoid, minimize.

3. A new way of doing business

Another widespread misconception is that it is too risky to tamper with the core business. The reality today is that it is too risky if you don’t.

Continuing business as usual and just making minor “green” tweaks is a high-stake gamble – even if you do it really well. People will see through it. They will see that you are still part of the problem, even if you have made changes such as altering your packaging, acquiring electric cars for management, or installing solar panels. You expose yourself to a significant risk of being accused of greenwashing. You must develop a new and better version of your core business, regardless of what you deliver to the market.

Sustainability is not a project. It is a different way of thinking, developing, and conducting business.

About the Author

Jasper SteinhausenJasper Steinhausen is the founder and CEO of Business With Impact. He is a business consultant and a specialist in making sustainability profitable for SME´s in the manufacturing space. He has helped more than 100 companies create business results through sustainability – from a full green turnaround, over creating a massive increase in branding and ability to attract talent, partners, and customers, to a company saving millions. He is an appraised speaker and has presented on the subject of business and sustainability to well beyond 10.000 people ranging from board members and leadership teams to technical staff.

He is the longest-running circular economy business consultant in the Nordic countries and has been an advisor for the Danish government on how to accelerate the green transition through their Green Transition Fund.

Jasper is matched by only a few when it comes to the ability to see new business opportunities emerging when applying the circular business mindset to a company’s challenges, goals and missions.

Jasper gets up in the morning to get business on the right side of history, by becoming a force for good.

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