Companies told going green is key to business success
Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt
Picture courtesy: The Natural Step
Manufacturers contemplating ‘going green' have been told that sustainability is the greatest business opportunity they will ever have.
Swedish scientist Dr Karl-Henrik Robèrt told an audience at an evening seminar at the IfM that pursuing an environmental agenda was one of the most profitable exercises any company could undertake.
Dr Robèrt is the founder and head of the world-renowned Natural Step, a non–governmental organisation which provides a framework for industry, policymakers and communities on steps towards sustainable development.
"Sustainability can be a central part of a successful businesses strategy, it can be profitable regardless of whether your competitors get it or not.
"The framework helps avoid unknown problems. It can be demonstrated with scientific rigour that your risk of being hit by resource costs will escalate as we grow more unsustainable.
"The risk of being hit by tax increases, your risk of losing opportunities in future markets, all these things are higher for those who don"t understand the sustainability game.”
A cancer specialist by training, Dr Robèrt formulated the framework 20 years-ago while treating children with cancer in his native Sweden.
Dr Robèrt knew that while there might be debates about the specific treatment regimens for the disease, there was agreement that no single specialist could cure cancer on their own.
He reasoned that issues of sustainability might also be tackled in a similar way – find consensus and work out a basic framework to identify what the core issues are. He wanted to develop a framework for sustainability that was as robust as the framework clinicians use to cure cancer, to understand the principle issues in order to help select the best ‘treatments' for the problem are.
He achieved this through adopting scientific peer-review process to create a document detailing consensus about what is in principle needed to become sustainable.
The framework has now been used by dozens of multinational companies, such as Nike, Panasonic and Ikea.
Dr Robèrt, an advisor to the ifM's Towards a Sustainable Industrial System report, was speaking at the IfM as part of a short visit to Cambridge. You can find out more about the Natural Step at www.naturalstep.org
18 February 2010