As sustainability infiltrates the top echelons of companies it is acquiring a new hard-headed language of business risk
We have come a long way from the days when CEOs could quote the economist Milton Friedman’s maxim that “the business of business is business” to explain why sustainability was not an issue for their companies.
Even when companies did profess to be taking sustainability seriously they often separated it from their main operations, under the heading of corporate social responsibility, and it had little impact on day-to-day operations. But that has changed and sustainability has become more central to the consideration of operational risks and strategies.
There are a number of reasons for this shift, including greater awareness of sustainability issues, increased regulation in areas ranging from climate change to conflict minerals, changing attitudes among investors, customers and employees, greater transparency as a result of the rise of social media and an increasing institutionalisation of sustainability factors into business operations.
“It’s not just that sustainability professionals are moving towards the language of business risk – which is definitely happening – but businesses are embracing sustainability and integrating it more firmly within their organisations,” says Murray Sayce, UK head of sustainability at global environment and health consultancy Ramboll Environ. He adds: “A consequence of integrating sustainability more closely with core business is...