Is the sustainability message sustainable? This is the question posed for a session Cone will lead today for The Conference Board, and as many of us in this space know, the answer is an unabashed “yes.” For those still unconvinced, here are a few supporting points:
- Investment in CR Steady: 86 percent of companies say investments in green products and green product development will be the same or higher in 2010 than 2009. (GreenBiz.com)
- Consumer Expectations Remain High: 85 percent said their expectations of companies to make and sell environmentally responsible products and services during the economic downturn was the same or higher. (Cone)
- Reporting on the Rise: Nearly 40 percent of firms on the Standard & Poor’s 500 index filed non-financial reports last year, a one-third jump over 2008. (Corporate Register)
- Experts Agree Sustainability Works: 88 percent of global thought leaders agree that improving sustainability performance improves overall brand image. (GlobeScan)
There are many telling examples that showcase how sustainability is not just holding steady, but actually gaining steam, but yesterday’s Environmental Leader highlighted a particularly compelling case. U.K.-based Marks & Spencer launched Plan A in 2007, with 100 sustainability-focused commitments to achieve in 5 years. The program has effectively weathered the economic turmoil to stay on point to meet its 2012 goal. In fact, the company has achieved 62 of its original targets and is slated to achieve all except seven by 2010 – two years ahead of its original schedule.
The company this year ALSO added 80 new or extended commitments with a goal of becoming the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015. The icing on the sustainability cake is that not only is the company meeting or exceeding its original goals, Plan A became cost positive in 2009. This year, Plan A generated a $73 million dollar profit that was reinvested in the company. And if there's one thing that makes a corporate initiative sustainable, it's a financial return.
See Marks & Spencer’s “How We Do Business Report 2010” for complete details about its commitments, including candid stakeholder feedback about the activities – and, yes, responses from the company on how it’s addressing these concerns.