When Bill Clinton was running for US president he reputedly kept a sign on his desk that read “It’s the economy, stupid” as a reminder of what his real priority should always be.
This was brought to mind by a new study on sustainability commissioned by Oracle which follows on from a similar study last year. In the meantime, of course, the world has changed – the banking crisis and recession have taken their toll.
Many companies have struggled to realign their business strategies to meet changing market demands and some have struggled simply to stay afloat. So it would be easy to think that the issue of sustainability has been driven off the agenda altogether.
However, the study, Sustainable Performance Management, carried out by The Future Laboratory shows that sustainability is still a priority: in fact some 92 per cent of those taking part in the survey say that it remains a business priority.
The report points out that easy wins still dominate thinking but perhaps more significantly, it found that sustainability presents business opportunities. “The research shows 62 per cent want to allow staff to make better and more sustainable operational decisions and detailed analysis of carbon hotspots can tease out a true picture of supply-chain inefficiencies.”
And a third of respondents say it helps them to create a clearer picture of their business. “They recognise that initiatives such as cutting air freight, promoting video conferencing and slashing energy usage can save money and reduce carbon footprint.”
The top three reasons given for adopting sustainable strategies were: to gain customer trust, to make the business more efficient, and to allow staff to make better operational decisions.
Perhaps this signals a new realism about the whole notion of the green supply chain. Altruistic notions of saving the planet might play well with the young and idealistic, but carry relatively little weight with people when they act as consumers looking for a bargain.
The real driver of change is more likely to be the tangible business benefits. As Bill Clinton might have said: “It’s the business case, stupid.”