What exactly does it mean to have a sustainable business in 2009? While no concrete and universal definition exists, Adam Werbach concludes that there are four equally important essential components of business sustainability: social, economic, environmental, and cultural. Adam Werbach’s new book entitled Strategy for Sustainability: A Business Manifesto, discusses sustainability in today’s business world. While sustainability was defined in the 1980s as a business’ ability to increase its earnings steadily, the definition of sustainability in the business world has matured and grown to encompass a more holistic approach. Once a philanthropic or optional issue, sustainability has become a core issue that businesses can ill afford to ignore.
Currently, going green is a huge trend among small, medium and large businesses. Werbach acknowledges the importance of green businesses, green jobs, and new green economies, but he cautions that green alone is not a broad enough approach to sustain a business for the long haul.In order to achieve sustainability, Werbach encourages businesses to state ‘North Star Goals’, which are “strategic directions that embody a global human challenge larger than any organization. Such goals should be consistent with the strengths of the company, have a connection to its core business, and elicit the personal contributions and passions of its members.” In addition, North Star Goals should be challenging, but attainable within 5 to 15 years. While North Star Goals and such an approach to sustainability only seem applicable to large businesses and corporations, small and medium sized businesses should not be discouraged. Most businesses are small and it is important to remember that it is all about scale. While a large corporation’s commitment to economic, social, environmental, and cultural sustainability might be global in scale, a small business’ sustainable commitment will be much more local in scale with North Star Goals addressing local challenges. While sustainability remains a major challenge for businesses around the world, it also remains an issue that is applicable to businesses of all sizes.
To read and learn more about Adam Werbach’s approach to business sustainability, see the full article about his new book here.