The Holy Grail of the Sustainability Discourse: Linking Financial and Environment & Social Performance tangibly

Sustainability has graduated from being a definition in the 1987 Brundtland Report to being one which is embedded in to mainstream corporate strategy. A ton of business literature has been dedicated to the ‘cause’ and some companies have truly derived value from being sustainable apart from the green washing aspect, which we all know is the principal driver in most cases. Sustainability has transitioned from a being a rhetorical vantage point to an implementable procedure which could extract some impact on the bottom-line.  Resource savings to better motivated employees, every possible trick in the book has been utilized to promote sustainability. Most of it has been driven from a piecemeal perspective.

Sustainability has grown in currency as often a safety related death, an oil spill or an industrial accident is terrible for the reputational capital of the firm, which is in turn bad for the face value of the stock if it is a publically listed company.  BP collapsed from an industry giant to a takeover target post the deep water horizon disaster. The Indian Multinational Group Mahindra & Mahindra, uses Sustainability as a governing ethos of the enterprise. It is the Harvard read Anand Mahindra’s leadership and foresight to utilize Sustainability as a compass to drive inclusive growth.  In developing nations such as India, sustainability often is a business pre-requisite as an unhappy community of stakeholders will douse the flames of any tentative project flaring up into a profitable venture. POSCO and Singur are a case in point where social inclusion which is critical component of a 360 degree sustainability strategy faltered terribly.

Social Satisfaction, Safety, Happy Employees are issues which are intangible positives which cannot be translated in to the financial bottomline. The triple bottomline is popular, but the only bottomline which matters is the ROI for the share holder.  The era of Sustainability is passé, Corporate Resilience is better paradigm in a discontinuous and networked world.  New indicators will have to be devised for that Environmental & Social Performance is better communicated to shareholders. Resource Extractive Industries are on the frontline of the Sustainability Battle.  Globalization in an uncertain world demands better parameters to generate insights. This is the Holy Grail. Someone needs to unlock it?

May be a PhD topic if a University funds me 🙂

1 Comment

  1. I felt the end was too abrupt….Perhaps a bit more ‘easing out of ‘ is required but meticulously written as always!!

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