A vibrant economy is enabled by a healthy environment. Businesses and manufacturers in particular, can play a tremendous role to ensure the earth’s natural resources are not wasted, and that we do our part in conserving natural resources and protecting human health and the environment. With demand for natural resources intensifying, many businesses are working harder than ever to integrate principles of sustainability into all facets of their enterprise.
Far too often environmental stewardship is considered a “cost center” or expense to the business. This false perception can limit proactive environmental performance and the powerful impact business can have in protecting human health and the environment. Leading edge businesses have realized that their environmental and financial performance is not mutually exclusive. Business sustainability has been an evolving opportunity to gain top-and-bottom line growth by smartly integrating sustainability into the culture, strategy, and operations of the business. In fact, many businesses ranging from Unilever, LEGO, Adidas, and UPS have now realized that sustainability is not a catch-phrase, but an entirely unique strategy to design, manufacture, and deliver products that provide a sustainable benefit to society, solve complex environmental challenges, and also result in financial improvements that enable continued innovation and business growth.
In fact, according to The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US-SIF), the market for socially responsible investing exceeds $6.5 trillion in the U.S. alone. This is significant for public-and-private companies. Each of the past three years have seen increases in shareholder resolutions for publicly-traded companies, pushing them to improve their performance on specific environmental, social, and governance (ESG) activities. Investors, ranging from large institutional investors like mutual funds and colleges and universities, state retirement funds, and individuals, are asking more from business with regard to their ESG performance. Like the businesses they choose to invest in, investors want to minimize risk and maximize financial opportunity. Thus the investment community is looking for business to become more transparent and accountable to how they deal with their ESG performance.
Businesses that are choosing to “compete on sustainability” are realizing top line growth in revenue by being able to access new market opportunities and earn new customers based upon their ability to differentiate their business, brand, products, and performance. Those companies that also embrace “inside the fence” operational strategies for sustainable performance also benefit from significant bottom line financial results. By becoming more resource efficient, sustainable operations leaders can achieve higher productivity at lower costs and resource intensity than their peers. The net result: revenue growth and higher margins for their businesses.
This formula for financial success embraces pragmatic business strategy with operational excellence and a culture of continuous improvement. Sustainable business is smart business. It yields financial results, environmental performance, and ultimately, a more competitive, trusted, accountable business. More and more that formula, and its quotient (less risk and greater upside potential) is exactly what communities, customers, shareholders, suppliers, and others are looking for from their partners.
HARBEC has spent the past fifteen years working to demystify the symbiotic link between sustainable and financial performance. Years ago HARBEC learned that while the environmental story was important to its leadership and employees, others (financial institutions, suppliers, customers, and so on) wanted to know that financial performance was not compromised. In response to this need, HARBEC developed an internal Eco-Economic model for evaluating the costs and benefits of all technologies, equipment, and projects that relate to business objectives for achieving carbon neutrality. HARBEC’s Eco-Economic model is also a deliberate tool to ensure that the business always achieves financial value from its investments, so that goals for environmental, energy, social, and sustainable impact do not interfere with the ability of the business to achieve desired financial performance.
By incorporating Eco-Economic decision criteria into its purchase of energy efficiency measures HARBEC has been able to use “energy dollars” or those dollars which would have been spent on electricity (kWh) and gas (therms) from the utility toward high-value energy efficiency improvements. The result of this unique approach has been significant. HARBEC has been able to save hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs by offsetting what they would have paid for energy if they had not made Eco-Economic analytical choices on energy improvements.