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|8 May 2012|
The Green Renaissance.
As part of what is known as the “triple bottom line,” Corporate Environmental Responsibility has secured itself as a requisite in successful business models.
It has been proven that a customer-competitive marketplace can propel change. As consumers, investors and shareholders increasingly challenge corporations for transparency and clear environmental strategies, there has been a noticeable shift in the benchmarking companies on more than just stock performance and return of investments. This calls for companies to set CER strategies that make good business sense.
A solid CER strategy can create business value by solidifying the company’s brand. By adding to its competitive advantage, CER can open up new revenue streams leading to increased profitability.
Apart from branding, modifying business practices to account for the company’s environmental impact can directly drive the costs down. Adopting sustainable practices in behaviour, operations, product design, manufacturing and sourcing can be measured in cost savings, while enabling innovation in each of these stages. The most important role sustainable practices can play in the corporate realm is in the transparency of operations. Integrated disclosure can boost the company’s profile among shareholders, customers, employees and policy makers.
Defining a clear vision
CER loosely applies to any initiative that suggests the company’s commitment to the environment, either in mitigating its direct impact or by ‘offsetting’ initiatives that raise environmental awareness by reaching out to the community. Choosing causes that most closely matches the existing vision and core values of the company is imperative to ensure credibility and success. This can be achieved by tweaking the company’s operational efficiency in terms of energy, water, waste and carbon emission levels; manufacturing process; supply chain and logistics; or by tying up with respected organisations that have the skills and infrastructure by essentially ‘outsourcing’ the company’s CSR department.
Collecting and managing data
Depending on the vision of the company, the next step for defining a CER strategy is to choose the environmental metrics for documentation (energy, water, greenhouse gas emissions, or waste). In the Middle East, keeping tabs on these indicators may need to be delegated to sustainability consultants who can employ globally recognised metrics in an objective manner. Once base values and targets have been determined, the next step lies in assessing performance at regular intervals.
Developing a strategy
After assessing where the company is at present and where it plans to go in its vision for sustainability, the next important step in the process is performing a thorough market review. It is crucial to determine what competitors are doing, what customers expect from businesses within the industry, what strategies drive market leaders. Ultimately, this analysis will allow you to form a solid conclusion on what the company should be doing, helping you set achievable goals for a sustainable future from top to bottom.
Regulatory reporting in Europe and North America allow for a streamlined process in performing ‘environmental audits,’ measuring the impact of CER initiatives and sustainable business practices. In the UAE, international bodies like the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Carbon Disclosure Project can fill that reporting vacuum. Arabia CSR Network, headed by EEG’s Habiba Al Marashi, has been certified by GRI as a training body for corporations in the UAE. The extensive Arabia CSR Awards, held annually in Dubai, provide companies a platform for sharing their achievements and learning from their limitations at training sessions featuring internationally acclaimed trainers and previous years’ winners outlining success strategies that can be adopted and customised for any organisation.
Transparency in sustainability reporting may take a while to establish itself as a norm in the UAE. Even though most companies adopt CER measures with vigour, and make it a point to publicise their efforts, only a handful of organisations take the effort to collate and publish annual sustainability reports. Informed investors and consumers are increasingly demanding for more than just announcements of corporate environmental data; they require companies to reveal results, reductions, and tangible impact of their CER drives. Market intelligence and key reports and resources need to be made public for a truly sustainable future.
Source: Build Green