Sustainability is “commercial imperative”- with £100bn reward

Sustainability is a “commercial imperative” and could benefit British businesses to the tune of £100billion according to a new report by retailer M&S, analysts at Accenture and the charity Business […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Sustainability is a “commercial imperative” and could benefit British businesses to the tune of £100billion according to a new report by retailer M&S, analysts at Accenture and the charity Business in the Community.

They urge companies to avoid tick-box style corporate and social responsibility and put environmental and social issues at the heart of their strategies.The call follows similar comments from outgoing BT chief executive Ian Livingston, whose firm recently pledged to cut three times the emissions it is responsible for.

The new ‘Fortune Favours the Brave report’ is based on primary and secondary research by Accenture and in depth discussions with CEOs of some of the UK’s leading companies such as Kingfisher and Jaguar Land Rover.

The report points to the growth of clean technology by 25% in the last five years and suggests there are five areas where businesses can act: shared value approaches, more with less, efficiency, the circular economy, new consumption models and transparency and customer engagement.

By capitalising on the “circular economy”, firms can cut costs, improve margins and preserve natural capital by closing the loop on supply chains through product design, extending asset life, re-use and recycling, states the report.

It also advocates doing “more with less”, by using resources more efficiently and bringing in clean technologies.

Stephen Howard, chief executive of Business in the Community added: “In today’s rapidly changing and increasingly resource constrained world – which will need to provide for 9 billion people by 2050 – it has never been more important for companies of all sizes to understand how and why sustainability is central to their long-term success and prosperity.”

Marc Bolland, chief executive of Marks & Spencer said: “Many companies have made progress in reducing their environmental and social impact, but we now need to make sustainability part of our targets and an intrinsic part of our brands. If UK business wants to have more impact, it will have to make sustainability desirable, appealing and relevant by responding to customer wants.”