You’ve heard about corporate sustainability and think it sounds like a good idea — but you’re not entirely sure what it means or why it’s important.
Well, the truth is that corporate sustainability has never been more critical than right now. That’s why we’re breaking it down to the basics so you can be in the know.
In this post, you’ll discover:
- What corporate sustainability is
- Why it matters to individuals
- How it benefits companies
- What the three pillars of sustainability are
- How one brand is applying them
And, finally, how you can join with the Lochtree team to create a more sustainable world.
Corporate Sustainability in 77 Words
The term “corporate sustainability” may sound confusing or even downright boring. But the truth is that it’s more straightforward than it seems. And it’s relevant to everyone!
One definition of sustainability is “to meet present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
So, in other words, corporate sustainability means considering a bigger perspective. Sustainable companies work to make the world a better place instead of only focusing on making a profit.
Why Does Corporate Sustainability Matter to You and Me?
It’s easy to think of corporate sustainability as something that’s only for CEOs. However, the truth is that it affects everyone. Including me and you.
For example, corporate sustainability can lead to:
- Better, safer products that are good for you and the planet
- Innovations in industries as companies think more creatively
- A cleaner environment with less pollution and waste
- Community development as companies become better neighbors
- More equitable opportunities for marginalized groups
- Peace of mind knowing that the brands you use are doing good
And as more companies choose sustainability, the ripple effect grows! Over time, this means that each company’s impact goes further and inspires more positive change.
Why Do Companies Prioritize Sustainability?
Corporate sustainability is good for people and the planet. But that’s not all — it’s good for the companies themselves, too.
Companies that prioritize sustainability often experience:
- More employee engagement since they feel a greater sense of purpose
- Lower employee turnover and fewer resources lost finding new employees
- Constant innovation that brings new opportunities
- Improved margins from finding ways to be more efficient
- Competitive advantage as more consumers choose eco-friendly companies
- Interest from investors who focus on responsible investing
One example of this is the outdoor brand Patagonia. Patagonia’s long-time emphasis on sustainability has earned them a loyal customer base. And their employees embrace their vision too — their 4% turnover rate is one of the lowest in the industry.
The Three Pillars of Corporate Sustainability
When looking at corporate sustainability, there are three main areas to consider: social, economic, and environmental.
These pillars are like three legs on a stool. They’re distinct and yet connected. And they each play a vital role in creating a more sustainable company.
The social pillar of corporate sustainability is all about people. This includes people within the company and outside it, like employees, community members, and customers.
Social sustainability may mean goals like creating a positive experience for employees or investing in the local community. Some companies that prioritize social sustainability may also focus on giving back to underserved groups.
Another aspect of the social pillar is creating ethical supply chains. Sustainable companies work to ensure that people are treated fairly throughout their supply chain.
You may be surprised to hear that the economic pillar of corporate social responsibility isn’t about maximizing profits. It’s about balance.
The economic pillar balances the other two pillars with the needs of the company. This includes managing risk and keeping the company profitable. After all, if the company doesn’t exist, it can’t do anything for people or the planet.
In the economic pillar, companies consider short- and long-term needs and goals. That way, they avoid extremes like suddenly cutting off all fossil fuel use. Instead, they make adjustments in phases — which helps create lasting growth and real change.
The environmental pillar is often the most visible, and for good reason. It’s all about caring for the environment in a more responsible way. Sustainable businesses consider their environmental impact and look for ways to improve.
Depending on the industry, this may include things like using more eco-friendly packaging or transportation solutions. Most companies also look at factors like energy use, waste management, and carbon footprint.
With these three pillars, companies can become powerful forces for good in the world. Then they not only serve to bring in a profit, but can also be a catalyst for needed change.
What Does Corporate Sustainability Look Like in Action?
Let’s return to our earlier example, Patagonia, and take a look at how they apply the three pillars of corporate sustainability.
The Social Pillar
Patagonia works to create transparent, ethical supply chains. 85% of their line is Fair Trade Sewn and nearly 40% is made by employees paid a living wage.
The company also focuses on engaging their employees in social sustainability. Employees can choose to join a volunteer program, where they’re paid for volunteering hours to good causes.
The Economic Pillar
Patagonia didn’t make a sharp turn toward sustainability all at once. It’s been a part of the brand vision since their early days. But as needs evolve, so does their business. And they implement changes gradually.
For example, the virgin cotton they use is 100% organic. In 1994, the brand’s founder sent out a notice that they needed to convert their whole sportswear line to organic cotton within 18 months. If not, they would stop making it entirely. With that extra motivation, they successfully transitioned to organic cotton by 1996.
The Environmental Pillar
Patagonia is well-known for their focus on the planet. They’ve created a strong environmental pillar through efforts like:
- Donating 1% of profits to environmental causes
- Using recycled materials in their clothing
- Repairing products for resale
- Supporting regenerative agriculture
- Choosing safe, sustainable materials
- Raising awareness about climate change
These combined efforts create a big impact. And, fortunately, more companies are taking notes. With challenges from microfiber pollution to a pollinator crisis, the planet needs all the help it can get.
Corporate Sustainability Matters for Everyone
The good news is that any and every brand can choose to become more sustainable, not just big names. Even small, grassroots companies can make a difference. And as a consumer, you have the power to help.
At Lochtree, we love working with brands that care about corporate sustainability. We do the work to make sure each brand measures up — so you can shop with peace of mind.