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BEST PRACTICE: Making sustainability sustainable

For all the talk about sustainability, someone forgot to check if the trend itself was going to prove sustainable. Think about it. Almost universally, the companies leading the way in sustainability see their initiatives as saving money to make money. Corporations invest into sustainability initiatives because the cost of fossil fuels at this point makes sustainability a solid long-term investment. But should the cost of fossil fuels recede close to pre-2005 levels, then the cost of maintaining those sustainability initiatives starts to exceed the amount they save.

This begs the question, can sustainability be more than alternative operating procedures and work processes? Is there some real, measurable profit that can be made? Yes, there is some green to be found in going green, and it's not just from lower operating costs. Here are three ways you can market your sustainability initiatives into potentially increased sales.

In a post-An Inconvenient Truth era, companies are quickly discovering that marketing their sustainability initiatives may win more fans at the checkout aisle. Consumers are looking for ways that they can contribute to a solution, and companies that afford them such opportunities are going to see financial rewards. As a result, consumer-facing companies that want to ensure customer loyalty are quickly recognizing that the call to sustainability must carry over to relationships with suppliers.

A study from consulting firm A.T. Kearney showed that today 50 per cent of companies will deselect suppliers for not meeting sustainability criteria. More than half the companies in the survey use some form of sustainability metrics when evaluating suppliers, ranging from eco-efficiency of materials and packaging to carbon footprint to full lifecycle costing.