For many years, businesses have largely ignored holistic approaches that employ sustainable practices, favoring their routines and remaining unwilling to adopt new methods that pose the risk of reducing their competitive edge. However, times are changing and many of those ahead of the curve have already left behind short-term decision making for shareholders’ profit in order to adopt long-term success for their business.

Sometimes referred to as inclusive capitalism or regenerative capitalism, these management approaches benefit all of a company’s stakeholders, rather than making decisions to best benefit shareholders’ quarterly profits. These cover a wide variety of aspects, from greening one’s supply chain to meeting and exceeding environment, social and governance (ESG) compliance requirements (Kline, 2015). In doing so, many companies have already began competing with each other, beginning a new ‘sustainable arms race.’ When a company previously only adopted sustainability strategies to avoid regulations and fines, now they adopt these tactics in order to brand themselves as leaders in environmental policy and green trends. The past secrecy of most companies’ environmental impact is also vanishing, as many embrace transparent and voluntary sustainability reporting (Kline). Even further, reputation risk is now a tremendous threat to corporate viability, as consumers expect corporations to act ethically, holding CEOs responsible for their decisions.

Some companies are even taking a step further, redefining their entire approach to business as a ‘force for good.’ These kinds of businesses are called B-Corps, and their philosophies involve meeting the “highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability,” according to the B Corporation community website. They intend to use market power to solve social and environmental problems, hoping that through their collective voice, business competition will be fighting to earn the title “best for the world,” ensuring a more sustainable and prosperous society (B Corps, 2017).

If you’re still not sold, consider the fashion industry, ranking high on the list of the most polluting industries in the world, second only to energy. The many aspects of a fashion supply chain, plus rapid style trends leads to an unsustainable use of resources and waste. Despite these challenges, some pioneers are revolutionizing their practices to take the trade in a new direction. In 2013, MetaWear was founded in Fairfax, Virginia, becoming the first Global Organic Textile Standard-certified apparel manufacturer in the United States, and the first Cradle to Cradle apparel manufacturer in the world (Khan, 2017). This practically waste-free manufacturer utilizes a solar-powered factory, offering cut-and-sew plus embroidery capabilities, a trademarked eco-friendly seaweed-based printing process and toxic free dying. Offering different levels of sustainability within its products at different prices, MetaWear argues that the increased costs from an entirely American-made product level out once increased account efficiency, risk mitigation and elimination of middle men factors are considered. Another company is an accelerated online program called Factory45, aimed to help others launch sustainable apparel businesses. They create small-batch capsule collections and pre-sell clothes to eliminate waste, as well as utilizing eco-friendly textiles and packaging (Khan).

All in all, the power truly lies in the preferences of the consumers. Based on numbers from a recent Nielsen Global Survey on Corporate Social Responsibility, polling over 30,000 consumers from 60 countries, we see that it’s not simply hippie corporate agendas pushing these green trends. Fifty-five percent of global online consumers are willing to pay higher prices for products and services provided by companies that are committed to positive social and environmental impact (Adams, 2014). About fifty-two percent of global respondents stated that packaging labels played a major role in their purchase decisions, looking for signs of social and environmental consciousness. Even further, these customers are more willing to purchase these products repeatedly from mindful companies, with half of the market coming from the future consumers, the millennial generation. This is especially important as this generation will be the lead purchasers in future markets. The Nielson study even went as far to compare actual retail performance of brands and/or products which boasted sustainability through packaging or marketing efforts, to brands and/or products which do not utilize those tactics. “The results from a March 2014 year-over-year analysis show an average annual sales increase of two percent for products with sustainability claims on the packaging and a lift of five percent for products that promoted sustainability actions through marketing programs. A review of 14 other brands without sustainability claims or marketing shows a sales rise of only one percent” (Adams).

It’s becoming more apparent than ever that adopting sustainability practices within a business benefits all parties involved long-term. The question is who will be the first companies to recognize the competitive edge they’d receive by adopting these improved procedures? This requires abandoning the era of short-term gains and accepting the inherent challenges that come with being a leader in sustainability. Calsense is proud to have core values which align with sustainability and environmental conservation, and it is our mission to help empower and educate others to do what they can to make a difference in our world.

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