Ensia, the magazine showcasing environmental solutions in action reports that ten years ago, few of the world’s largest companies made investments in sustainability. Today, half are publishing sustainability reports and making progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and chief sustainability officer has become an important and well-regarded profession.

More and more, companies are realizing sustainability issues are business and economic issues, and business leaders are accountable for outcomes […] Companies leading the way on sustainability issues all seem to have one thing in common: They integrate the financial, social and environmental risks and opportunities around sustainability as they would any other aspect of their business.

Procter & Gamble, the consumer products giant, developed an environmental vision: power its manufacturing plants with 100 percent renewable energy, use 100 percent renewable materials in its products, send no waste to landfills and design products that are better for the environment […] Eliminating waste has resulted in $1 billion per year in savings. What’s P&G’s secret? “All company leaders are involved in sustainability decisions,” says Len Sauers, vice president for global sustainability at P&G, “and there is a directive that sustainability be a part of everybody’s job.”

Aluminum manufacturer Alcoa defines sustainability as using value to build financial success, environmental excellence and social responsibility in partnership with all stakeholders. “The goal is to deliver net long-term benefits to our shareholders, employees, customers, suppliers and the communities in which they operate,” says Kevin Anton, head of sustainability at Alcoa. Indeed, this is not an isolated matter. Most companies want to ensure their shareholders, whether they came in by buying nio shares or through other means, are looked after alongside their employees. Alcoa is taking it to another level, however.

Leaders such as P&G and Alcoa, where sustainability officers report directly to CFOs, are setting the bar. But more CEOs and CFOs need to become educated and involved in the role of sustainability. If the investments these companies are making today continue to pay off, others are sure to follow.


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