Ready for a green future?

‘Sustainable thinking’ for businesses has to begin from management students.   | Photo Credit: Freepik

What if we look at COVID-19 as a warning by Mother Nature to take affirmative action immediately and arrest the devastating effects of our own actions? Collectively, the businesses of the world have the ability to be front runners and work with governments to arrest the tide through innovative products, business processes and solutions.

But, first, it is important to think sustainably while building the business, rather than try to retrofit after the revenue model is built. Second, ‘sustainable thinking’ for businesses has to begin from the management students who will be future leaders with powerful ideas that can transform businesses by disrupting business models that are not inclusive or sustainable. Hence, sustainability has to be integrated into the curriculum and the faculty has to be immersed in this thinking in order to be able to transfer the knowledge.

Disrupting old ways

Green is definitely the new black. Sustainable practices are going to win the battle for the consumer’s wallet in the future. Vicki von Holzhausen, a pioneering California-based businesswoman, developed a biodegradable material that looks and feels like leather, but is made from recycled plastic. Other players in the fashion industry too are innovating their business models: Uniqlo and Levis have created new manufacturing processes, which reduce the water consumed to make a single pair of distress jeans by 99%. The H&M store in Stockholm is recycling old clothes; customers can bring in an old T-shirt or cotton dress and watch it be rewoven into a sweater or scarf through the glass walls of the machine.

Hungarian Tom Szaky, who was overcome with guilt upon realising that every toothbrush or a pair of sandals ends up in a landfill, founded TerraCycle, a company which makes it possible to recycle everything in our lives. Popular brands have signed up with TerraCycle, which collects old products and recycles them. It has achieved revenues, in excess of $50 million a year. Leading companies are setting hard business targets to stimulate sustainable innovation and launch ‘green’ products.

Walk the talk

It is imperative that India does not lag behind other nations in adopting sustainable business practices. To do that, business schools must walk the talk. On the hardware side, they must:

Create a sustainable campus with climate-friendly buildings and employ renewable energy sources.

Employ rain water harvesting.

Recycle garbage and set up sewage treatment plants.

On the software side, they must inculcate a new approach and habits among the students. They must introduce concepts like Green Marketing, Green Finance, Green HR, Green Operations and Green Logistics & Supply Chain.

According to a 2018 survey by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, businesses that focus on environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) metrics, produced higher three-year returns, were more likely to become high-quality stocks, less likely to have large price declines, and less likely to go bankrupt.

In this context, given that India is likely to see about one million green jobs created in the next two years, growing at a rate twice that of all jobs put together, sustainability is definitely the way forward.

The writer is Founder and Chairman of Universal Business School, Mumbai.

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 12:48:27 PM |

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