Creating Broad Value: 2012 Canadian Business Sustainability Challenges

This report presents key business sustainability challenges for 2012 that firms should watch for – and proactively address.

Learn to prosper in any environment.

Leading businesses are beyond the point of asking “is sustainability important” and “should we do it.” They recognize that how they treat their stakeholders and the environment will impact their long-term viability.

This report presents the key sustainability challenges facing leading businesses for 2012. These priorities were established by a council of executives from Canadian organizations recognized for their leadership in sustainability. Representing major sectors of the economy, these leaders gathered for a one-day roundtable facilitated by Dr. Tima Bansal, Executive Director of NBS.

Doing Good Business in a Challenging Environment

It’s no longer enough to create products and services that meet market needs. To stay competitive, companies must take a more holistic view of the value they deliver, including understanding how their products, services and processes as well as the environment impact key stakeholders. Those firms that successfully manage competing interests position themselves to survive and prosper in an increasingly challenging market.

Top 10 Sustainability Challenges in 2012

  1. How can we redefine the traditional business case to include sustainability?

  2. How can sustainability drive innovation (and vice-versa) within companies? See resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on on sustainability-oriented innovation.

  3. How can we mobilize citizens to take more sustainable actions? See resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on social change.

  4. How can businesses build sustainability into corporate budgeting and planning?

  5. How can we continue to green the firm in tough economic times?

  6. How can business measure progress on social and environmental issues?

  7. How can we quantify the productivity of environmental goods and services?

  8. How can businesses attract and retain employees through sustainability?

  9. What are the best (and worst) practices in sustainability reporting?

  10. How can businesses effectively engage with NGOs on social and environmental issues?

Answering Questions through Research

Each year, NBS funds research projects on select priorities identified by the Leadership Council and presented in annual challenges reports. These projects synthesize the best knowledge in the world, providing a solid foundation of knowledge upon which managers and researchers can build. The challenges studied annually via systematic reviews form the foundation of our other NBS activities.

For 2012, the research projects include innovation and social change.

#2: Sustainability-Oriented Innovation

Organizations want to know how to create innovation through sustainability — and how to do it repeatedly, rapidly and systematically. As of yet, companies don’t have a good sense of how to develop such a cycle.

Grete Bridgewater, Director of Environmental Services at CP RAIL, addressed how the combination and integration of sustainability and innovation could advance corporate leadership. “The combination of innovation, sustainability, and profitability is powerful. If research can unlock the potential in our organizations to view our business model differently and encourage sustainable innovation in a meaningful way, then we will learn, adapt, and lead change.”

NBS commissioned a year-long research project in response to this challenge. Read the resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on on sustainability-oriented innovation.

#3: Social Change

Leading businesses have been asking how they can help build a broader set of accountabilities among all citizens. “A substantial part of our environmental impact depends on how consumers use the product, and we want to stimulate that environmental consciousness in the public,” explains John Coyne, Legal & External Affairs and General Counsel, Unilever Canada Inc.

Companies have a good understanding of how to influence within their own operations. Increasingly, leaders like Unilever want to understand how to effectively educate their customers and communities, and create incentives that lead to widespread societal change.

NBS commissioned a year-long research project in response to this challenge. Read the resulting Executive Report and Systematic Review on social change.

To access NBS challenges reports published over the years, view the knowledge priorities.


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