Corporate social responsibility made the leap in 2013 from being a “do good” corporate responsibility to a best practice for growing profits. During 2013 my articles on TriplePundit profiled businesses and business leaders that successfully won customers and cut costs by making a difference. In 2013, the top five CSR profit-making best practices were:
- Selling affordable, good food
- Winning customers with trustworthy behavior
- Turning trash into cash
- Gaining competitive advantage by deploying clean technologies
- Hiring women leaders
Here are some examples.
Good affordable food wins
The economic reality is that sustainability’s triple bottom line includes planet, people and profit. The great news for businesses and individuals is that there are a growing number of sustainable best practices on how to grow business profits or individual wealth. These best practices have been developed by credible and experienced people. Their best practices are proven to cut costs, reduce environmental impacts and increase human health. Most can be implemented in a relatively short time often without investing a dime.
Five proven sustainable best practices that grow individual wealth
The following are five sustainable best practices proven to put money in your pocket, improve your health and make a difference:
Here’s the easiest and least-costly way to reduce your pain at the fuel pump. Every day we collectively waste four million gallons of gasoline due to low tire pressure.
An estimated quarter of our automobiles and about a third of light trucks (including sport utility vehicles, vans, and pickup trucks) have one or more tires under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch (psi) or more below the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The fuel waste penalty from under-inflated tires is 1.5 billion gallons per year. At $3.50 per gallon we are collectively throwing away $5.25 billion a year from having under-inflated tires. Drivers with under-inflated tires face increased fuel costs of 12-15 cents per gallon.
Generation Z, the first generation born in the 21st century, will most likely buy a Zero Net Energy (ZNE) home as their first new home purchase. A ZNE home and its promise of low or no monthly utility bills will align with this generation’s fiscal prudence gained from the hard lessons of the Great Recession.
ZNE homes will be designed around information age technologies that will be attractive to this generation, many of whom probably held a smart phone or tablet computer before holding a book. And when this generation is ready to buy their first home, their purchase options will be shaped by emerging public policy like California’s Title 24 building code revisions that target all new residential construction being ZNE by 2020.
What is a zero net energy home?
The simplest definition for a ZNE home is a home that annually generates onsite renewable energy that is equal to its annual energy consumption. Today, this definition is already being achieved by thousands of home owners across the U.S. that have installed rooftop solar systems that generate enough electricity to turn their meters back to an annual net zero. But this current solar path to ZNE ignores the economic and environmental benefits of smart and energy efficiency technologies. It is also being challenged by electric utilities claiming a distortion in the cost allocation of grid services when a homeowner can avoid payment to the utility while still using the grid to supply their home with electricity.
California’s massive building code revisions, called Title 24, target achieving sea-changing growth in energy efficiency investments by eliminating the conflicted and uncertain economics that currently constrict energy efficiency project financing. Title 24 is a huge bet by California that smart, energy efficient and renewable energy technologies can be grown to economies of scale that will deliver price competitiveness. It is also an unprecedented path for sparking growth in a construction industry still recovering from the Great Recession.
If successful, Title 24 will open the door to increased amounts of energy efficiency financing, expanded sources of capital and lower financing costs. If successful, Title 24 will revolutionize the economics of smart building technologies that will reshape America’s homes and offices to be cleaner, smarter, healthier and less costly to operate.
Starting in 2014, California is implementing a tsunami of building code revisions called Title 24. These revised building codes will move California’s residential and commercial buildings toward Zero Net Energy (ZNE). In a ZNE building, the annual energy consumption is equal to its annual production of renewable energy. Under Title 24, all new residential construction is to be ZNE by 2020 with all new commercial buildings achieving this ZNE goal by 2030.
Title 24 moves building design toward “comprehensive building solutions.” This building design approach first focuses upon reducing energy consumption through the integration of smart and energy efficient technologies. The final design step after reducing the building’s energy consumption is to install onsite renewable energy generation like solar panels.
A food earthquake just hit south of the border. Mexico has successfully passed legislation placing an 8 percent sales tax on sugary soft drinks in response to their obesity epidemic. This is a significant public policy threat to the revenues of industrial beverage companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola. It also raises public policy questions for the U.S. as it struggles with its own national epidemic of obesity and diabetes.
Health care costs expand with waistlines
Mexico and the United States are two of the world’s fattest countries. In the U.S. 31.8 percent of adults are classified as obese. In Mexico, it is 32.8 percent.
Heightened obesity levels increase human suffering. Obesity is linked to type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and arthritis. Today, 25 million Americans have type 2 diabetes. 27 million have chronic heart disease. 68 million have hypertension and 50 million have arthritis.
Heightened obesity levels also place a heavy cost burden upon our national economy and family budgets. In the U.S., the cost of treating obesity-related diseases is $48 billion. The Harvard School of Public Health estimates that the added costs of lost work days, increased medical insurance rates and lost wages results in a $190 billion cost impact upon our national economy.
Twitter is about to launch their initial public offering. This public event has brought new focus to the fact that Twitter’s Board of Directors is all male. When Twitter CEO Dick Costolo was challenged on this issue by Vivek Wadhwa, a Fellow at the Stanford University Arthur & Toni Rembe Rock Center for Corporate Governance, Mr. Costolo responded by calling Wadhwa the “Carrot Top” of academic resources. Carrot Top is of course a cringe-worthy red-headed comedian no one wants to listen to. At the risk of being called the “Don Rickles of economists,” I’ll share four documented business reasons (in addition to the obvious ethical argument) for CEO Costolo to have women serving on Twitter’s Board of Directors:
Unilever is a pioneer in the art of winning customers and creating competitive advantage with brand authenticity through their positive impacts upon human and environmental well-being. Their CEO, Paul Polman, has staked his professional career on a strategy that says a business can achieve ambitious financial results by also achieving ambitious CSR results. Their business and sustainability results are establishing best practices in product design, marketing, branding and business operations.
Unilever’s CEO links financial success and sustainability
Unilever has successfully sold its products to 2 billion worldwide households. Most Americans would recognize their products like Dove Beauty Bar or Hellman’s mayonnaise (know as Best Foods west of the Rockies). Their annual revenues are approximately $66 billion. The company’s goal is to grow revenues in excess of $100 billion.
CEO Paul Polman is convinced that “…businesses that address both the direct concerns of citizens and the needs of the environment will prosper over the long term.”
Consumers are engaged in a search for authenticity that is challenging the sales sustainability of existing brands. According to a Harris Interactive survey, 44 percent of Americans have a “poor” or “terrible” opinion of corporate America. Less than a third of Americans view corporate America as “very good” or “good.” Havas Media’s research found that only 9 percent of U.S. consumers believe brands improve their lives. Ninety-three percent of Americans would not care if brands disappeared!
Ten dimensions of a great brand
Twentieth century brand success was based upon offering customers “more, bigger, cheaper” and delivering these benefits “now!” The 21st century consumer, enabled through mobile and social digital technologies, are redefining what a brand must offer to attract them and win them as customers. The American consumer is actively searching for brands that align value with values. The following ten brand best practices are proven to engage customers on their issues of value and values:
Price competitiveness. It starts here for most consumers in today’s economy. The price tag is the key qualifier on how interested a consumer will be in your product.
The Rainforest Alliance is proving that green products are a significant opportunity for growing sales even in this unsettled economy. Impressively, Rainforest Alliance certified chocolates now represent 10 percent of the world’s chocolate sales. Their certified teas have 12 percent worldwide market share. Approximately 15 percent of all bananas are Rainforest Alliance-certified. The business success generated by the Rainforest Alliance has attracted hundreds of alliance partners including Unilever, Yogi Tea and Clif Bar.
The frog icon is recognized worldwide as representing authentic green products. September 16-22, 2013 is follow the frog week.
Rainforest Alliance’s products offer best-practices examples on how going green wins customers. Market research is documenting a consumer revolution driven by their search for authenticity in the products they buy and the businesses they buy from. Today’s moms are searching for products that align value with values in support of their family’s wellness. The millennial generation is looking for businesses that are “cool with a purpose.” Corporate America is greening their supply chain to cut risks and costs. The bottom line for every business is that the global market for more sustainable goods and services now exceeds $1 trillion in annual revenues and is a path for achieving superior business revenue growth.
GM is generating $1 billion annually through recycling and repurposing their waste stream. They are literally turning trash into cash! This is not an isolated example. Sustainable waste management is now a competitive advantage for businesses ranging from Walmart to Dupont to small businesses like JJH Auto Body and Paint in Salt Lake City.
These companies and entrepreneurs are using waste management to cut their costs. They are using it to win contracts from corporate America by greening their supply chain. And they are using sustainability as a values-based path for engaging and motivating work associates.
GM best practices you can use in your business
GM is just one of a growing number of companies that are proving that there is a sustainable triple bottom line where measuring and managing to achieve environmental and social results will also grow profits. These companies have developed proven best practices that apply across industries. These best practices are low hanging fruit available to every business. Often these best practices will grow profits within the first 90 days of implementation.
Ford’s sales growth is proving that competitively priced, well-designed products that are more sustainable will outsell less-sustainable products. Ford’s line-up of fuel-efficient cars and trucks that deliver lower tail pipe emissions are selling at a record pace. In June 2013, Ford achieved a year-over-year 13 percent sales increase. That is Ford’s best sales performance since 2006. How hot is Ford? They have captured the number one position on the BrandIndex with more buzz than Amazon, YouTube or last years’s champ, Subway!
Ford’s sustainability commitment
Ford is a corporate leader in designing sustainable products and has pioneered vehicle designs that align with scientific analysis on the reduced level of greenhouse emissions required to address climate change. This commitment begins with Chairman Bill Ford and CEO Alan Mulally who have made sustainability one of Ford Motor Company’s four corporate attributes. Their commitment to fuel economy and reduced emissions now permeates Ford’s product offerings. From small cars to hybrids to electric cars to full size trucks, Ford is winning customers by selling solutions to pump price pain and climate change.
Imagine running an oil company where only one or two of the directors on your board have oil industry experience. Imagine running a computer company where none of the board uses a computer, tablet or smart phone. Now imagine corporate America running their businesses where less than 15 percent of their boards are women.
Women are not a minority except in terms of their parity with men on corporate boards. While women account for over 50 percent of college graduates and they dominate economic power in our economy with $8 trillion of annual buying power, they still account for less than 15 percent of S&P 500 boards of directors. Three percent of Fortune 1000 companies have no women on their board of directors. For the next tier of 1,000 midsize companies the level of ZERO women representation on the boards jumps to 30 percent.
The business case for women directors
Women serving on the board of directors is a best practice for winning business success. Research by Catalyst documents that Fortune 500 companies with women on their board of directors achieve the following superior business results:
Please repeat the words “more oil, higher prices” as you stand at the gasoline pump. These four words are key to solving your pain at the pump because they underlie oil price reality. “Drill, baby, drill” through hydraulic fracturing is pumping out more oil. It will not deliver sustained lower pump prices.
Why gasoline prices are high, going higher
There are two reasons why more oil does not mean lower pump prices. The first reason is that oil is a global commodity and its prices are a result of global supply and demand. Oil prices are higher because the incremental growth of global demand continues to exceed the incremental growth of global supply. More oil production does not lower prices if the rate of demand for oil rises faster than the rate of new supply.
Supply chain risk is the second reason for higher pump prices. Middle East unrest restricts supplies. Oil refineries are highly complex and they will have serious breakdowns that restrict supplies. Oil pipelines will leak, oil tankers will run aground and rail lines will have accidents. The fact that the world is pumping more oil than ever before in its history, also means it is more at risk. Higher risks and larger scale disruptions will generate higher prices at the pump.
Your gas pump reality is that the price will not go down and stay down. It is very likely you will be paying even more for gasoline five years from now. The only sustainable cost saving alternative is to use less gasoline.