Is sustainability worth it for SME’s?

Sustainability talk, and increasingly more sustainability walk, have become mainstream in large enterprises as a viable and highly profitable business strategy. Paying attention to the triple bottom line (people, planet, and profit) is also a great risk management strategy. If you need proof, simply look at the empirical research completed by Bob Willard over the past 12 years. Bob is an expert in the business case for sustainability and his research shows companies that integrate sustainability into their strategy grow their profits by 51% to 81% over a 3 to 5 year period. Those are some nice numbers.

But do those amazing results apply to SME’s? Can we afford to invest our limited time and resources to focus on people, planet, and profit? Should we care about sustainability if we do not face the same pressure and reputational risk that larger companies do? Is sustainability worth it for Small and Medium sized Enterprises?

The short answer is absolutely. Here are three reasons why:

1. Sustainability gives your company purpose, strengthens culture and increases productivity

If you are similar to ET Group, your biggest strength comes from your company culture and the dedication of your employees. But, how can sustainability help solidify your company’s purpose, create a stronger culture and keep your employees engaged?

By definition, a sustainability lens focuses companies to do what is best for the planet, people, and profit. Thus, it gives your company a reason to exist that people can believe in; a valuable purpose that is extremely motivating and engaging for employees. In fact, purpose is proven to be more effective at driving extraordinary performance than any external rewards (commissions, bonuses, etc.). I know this not just because of Daniel Pink’s incredible TED talk, but because I live it everyday at ET Group.

Engaged employees are highly productive because they believe in your company and what it stands for. They want to contribute to the well-being of the company and their colleagues, so they work extra hard to ensure success. Focusing on people, planet, and profit will help you strengthen your company’s purpose or it may even help you find a new one that resonates more with your employees and potential clients. A worthwhile purpose will:

2. Focusing on people, profit, and planet makes your company more resilient and better able to adapt to change

Businesses can only survive over the long term if they are creating value. Historically, value created by companies was measured exclusively in economic terms, but the definition is rapidly changing. True value is starting to be defined by financial, social, and environmental metrics, so SME’s have to consider their impact in each of these realms if they want to prevail over the long run.

Sustainability forces you to widen your lens to take into account impacts on people and the environment. This broader perspective makes you aware of potential risks and opportunities that may be coming down the pipe. For a great summary of business opportunities and risks tied to sustainability, read the executive summary of Expect the Unexpected: Building Business Value in a Changing World by KPMG.

As we know, natural resources will be increasingly constrained in the years to come. Supplies are limited in this finite planet, but the demands of our increasing population are not. Also, energy prices are rising and are expected to continue doing so, putting pressure on our margins. Finally, sustainability is increasingly becoming an important branding component that resonates with employees and some of our customers who value corporate social responsibility in the companies they do business with.

These trends impact us all, so it is imperative that SME’s start actively focusing on sustainability now if they want to be competitive in the future. An early focus in sustainability will give SME’s rewards like lower energy costs, reduced waste and more efficient transportation.

From experience, recycling e-Waste became a new source of revenue for ET Group and I know we will save a significant amount of money when we refresh our fleet with more fuel-efficient vehicles. I strongly believe that a commitment to sustainability will end up building long-lasting, beneficial relationships with quality customers and suppliers. All of these reasons positively impact the bottom line today and help mitigate future negative impacts.

 3. Sustainability pushes SME’s to innovate so they can stay relevant with their customers

As sustainability gains momentum, consumers will demand more sustainable products and practices, so companies who produce and embrace them will benefit significantly. Furthermore, as more and more externalities are incorporated into accounting practices, only truly sustainable products and services will have a pricing advantage over regular products so sustainability-driven innovation is not just a benefit, it is a must.

In simple terms we will need to reinvent many of the products and solutions we offer today so we remain relevant to our customers. At the ET Group we find that incredibly exciting and a real privilege! We need to redesign our own industry to become more sustainable and we continuously need to offer better collaboration technology products and solutions that will ultimately help other industries transform for the better. For more information on this check out my blog post: The link between collaboration technologies and sustainability.

New products and solutions usually result in more sales, higher margins, and exciting work, which makes for a healthy working environment. Therefore, innovating should be seen as a great opportunity for leading SME’s out there.

SME’s should invest in sustainability now, before it hits them like a freight train from their blind side. I strongly believe SME’s are critical to make sustainability mainstream and that we have a huge opportunity to take a leadership role and make it happen. In an upcoming post I will provide my thoughts on how SME’s can strategically embark on the road towards sustainability, so I would love to get some input and real life experiences from our readers out there.

The journey towards sustainability is a challenging one, but we can make it fun and exciting if we work together. It is also our duty and responsibility as a business community to ensure that we can thrive for generations to come.

If you like this post please share it with your network and give us feedback in the comment section below! If you want to learn more about what we are doing at ET Group to start our journey towards sustainability, please let us know and we will be happy to share with you. We are on a journey and we have a long way to go, but we are committed to getting there.

Without Collaboration, There is No Innovation!

I recently wrote about the importance of Innovation. We reviewed why people and organizations that consistently innovate are not only able to sustain themselves in ever changing environments but that they actually grow and thrive beyond their peers.

Innovation is not about invented technologies; it is about how those technologies are applied in meaningful ways. The US Patent & Trademark Office estimates that only one out of every 500 patents has any chance of commercialization. Innovation combines existing technological inventions with new ways of doing things, to create new value.

So Far we Know:

Collaboration= Innovation

Innovation= Sustainability in the Market & Economic Prosperity

Collaboration is to Innovation as Innovation is to economic prosperity. You can’t sustain prosperity long term without Innovation and you cant be truly innovative without robust and consistent collaboration with others.

Collaboration is about the pooling of ideas, resources and energies. Whenever people come together in creative discussion about how to solve a problem or create something new, the most powerful mechanism of development comes to bear. A big gene pool of ideas, perspectives and experiences always trumps limited pools. And so, we should look for ways to foster collaboration as a required stepping stone to Innovation.

This isn’t always the obvious approach. Often we want to keep our best ideas to ourselves so that we can realize the benefits and not have others steal them or get credit for them. In reality, by sharing openly we will likely realize more and quicker success.

Don Tapscott, in his book entitled Wikinomics, describes the new world economy based on four Collaboration principles of Openness, Peering, Sharing and Acting Globally. He describes how a number of companies reached huge levels of success by adopting these principles even when it seemed counter intuitive.

Top Three Business Examples of Collaboration Driving Innovation:

  1. IBM resisted the open platform software development efforts of the Linux community for many years. Their logic was that the Linux effort was competitive to their own software business and that Linux would die off eventually. After several years of resistance IBM realized that Linux was here to stay and actually was contributing huge value to the world. At a certain point, IBM decided to join the Linux community and over time, shared approximately $100 million dollars worth of their own development efforts for free. What they got back for opening their development ‘kimono’, was over $400 million in free development.
  2. Another Ontario based mining company broke the traditional taboo of their industry by publishing all its geological data on the internet asking for advice on where to mine and offered a reward for new ideas. Their revenues increased from $100 million to $9 billion, almost entirely out of openness, collaboration and trust.
  3. In the newest book from the Intelligent Communities Foundation entitled ‘Seizing our Destiny’ the authors describe how 7 communities around the world earned the rank of Most Intelligent Communities. Invariably these communities started with collaboration as a corner stone of their path to new successes. Several of them were coming from the depths of serious challenges and were forced to reinvent themselves in creative and innovative ways.

So as it turns out, Collaboration is the necessary predecessor to Innovation.

It is critical that we all create environments of mass collaboration. Enabling creative thinking and acting wherever we co-exist. We should challenge ourselves to enable those environments with technologies that allow flexible work styles and places. We should foster those principles of Openness, Peering, Sharing and Acting Globally whenever we can.

What Greatness Can You or Your Organization Possibly Achieve by Collaborating Better?

If you are still trying to “sell” collaboration in your organization and people don’t understand how collaboration achieves innovation and economic sustainability, contact us at ET Group if you like to learn more about our strategies to implement technology to increase collaboration.

The Link Between Corporate Sustainability and Collaboration Technologies (CT’s)

In this post, I will discuss sustainability as a key business imperative and explain how companies can use CT’s to transform their business and reduce their overall environmental footprint.

Sustainability Is a Necessity That Is Good for Business

When you look at key environmental and social data, it becomes apparent that business as usual in no longer a viable option going forward. Over the past 40 years, the human population has more than doubled from 3 billion in 1960 to more than 7 billion in early 2012. This explosive growth, combined with a net gain for overall human wealth and well-being has put an unsustainable amount of pressure on our planet. Currently, we need more than 1.5 planets to sustain our current population and consumption patterns. This unprecedented growth and the incredible rate of change we are experiencing are quickly driving leading companies around the world to recognize sustainability as a key business imperative. Sustainability is not just a necessity; it is also proven to drive positive business results. Recent academic studies, as well as stock market data indicate sustainability leaders across different sectors are consistently outperforming their competition. However, integrating sustainability into a company’s overall strategy and operations is not an easy task. In most cases, “going green” requires a true business transformation, which affects every area of the business and requires an immense amount of collaboration and innovation between internal and external teams. Here is where the right mix of CT’s can drive tangible reductions in CO2 emissions while enabling unparalleled collaboration and innovation.

CT’s Fuel Innovation and Reduce Your Environmental Footprint

Collaboration technologies, such as Audio, Video, Web and Interactive Whiteboard Conferencing, can all contribute to CO2 emissions reductions and attractive operational efficiencies even if they are deployed in isolation. However, significantly higher returns can be achieved when these technologies are effectively integrated throughout the entire organization and used by different user groups. In sustainability terms, the key benefits of collaboration technologies can be allocated to each of the widely accepted sustainability criteria:

Corporate SustainabilityFrom a People perspective, collaboration technologies allow employees to integrate work into their lifestyles, thus, allowing them to work effectively from anywhere they choose. This flexibility and perceived freedom have proven to increase retention rates, employee morale, loyalty and overall productivity by more than 20%. Also, collaboration technologies allow companies to create stronger relationships with their customers, to differentiate themselves from the competition and to enable them to focus on becoming their customer’s trusted advisor.

On the Profit side, collaboration technologies allow companies to make almost every process more effective and efficient, resulting in dramatic productivity savings and capacity increases. Clear examples of attractive operational savings include reductions in travel, transportation and real estate costs. Furthermore, the effective deployment of collaboration technologies allows employees, suppliers and clients to collaborate and innovate faster than even before, therefore, creating new business opportunities. Companies that experience the highest returns do so by encouraging and integrating the use of collaboration technologies in their policies and processes.

Lastly, and increasingly more importantly, collaboration technologies can help reduce the environmental impact of most companies by reducing direct and indirect CO2 emissions, thus, lessening the strain on our Planet. Examples of large CO2 savings opportunities include emission reductions through less travel and commuting, reduced real estate requirements, and the capability of influencing employees’ mindset to further reduce emission by effectively measuring and communicating key environmental data through digital signage technologies.

As you can see, collaboration technologies contain all of the values of corporate sustainability, therefore, careful planning, attention and ongoing management of these vital tools will yield results that will positively impact People, Profit and our Planet.

About ET Group

Collaboration and sustainability are key business imperatives required to meet the demands of a rapidly changing world. ET Group designs and builds interactive collaboration ecosystems that help companies connect, innovate and execute faster while reducing their overall environmental footprint.

i– United Nations. (2011, May). World Population to reach 10 billion by 2100 if Fertility in all Countries Converges to Replacement Level– [Press Release].
ii Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. (2005). Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Synthesis.