Which of the “Three Ps” Takes Precedence?

Which of the “Three Ps” Takes Precedence?

Pamela Carpio March 28, 2013
"Should I continue investing in environmental certification for our facility, or should I allocate the budget to promoting our business and growing our clientele?" In other words, should “planet” take precedence over “profit”?

That was the question posed by Rachel Marie Charlebois, Director of GEOS Spa Sacacomie and a member of NBS’s Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Council. The Council is a group of 16 businesses that actively pursue environmental and socially practices. NBS convenes the group annually to share best practices and identify mutual challenges.
SME Council-2013
Front row (left to right): Maude Genest-Denis, IGA Cookshire, Marie-Julie Laperrière, Ministère des Finances et de l'Économie, Marie-Hélène Labrie, Enerkem, Marie-Rachel Charlebois, GEOS Spa Sacacomie, Rémy Paré, Les Alouettes de Montréal. Back row (left to right): Alex Favreau, Quartz Nature, Luc Bélair, Insertech, Jean Barbeau, Artopex, Sophie Hénault, Bio-Vert, Yvon Léveillé, JAS Filtration
Charlebois’ question was echoed last week by the nine other small business leaders who attended NBS’s annual SME Council meeting. For small businesses, the integration of sustainability into operations can create an ongoing tension between financial performance on the one hand, and environmental and social performance on the other.

But sustainable business practice need not be an either/or decision.

"If companies focus on actions that affect the strategic heart of the organization, the tension between profitability and sustainability disappears,” said Marie-France Turcotte, management professor at the Université de Montréal and Director of NBS’ French Office. “Unfortunately, many people understand sustainability very narrowly and associate it with specific environmental actions such as recycling or giving to charity.”

Instead of trying to apply a one-size-fits all sustainability strategy based on what other companies are doing, Turcotte advises companies implement environmental and social initiatives that align with core business needs.

Recycling is a logical focus for a construction company. Reducing carbon footprint from employee travel is a logical starting point for consultants. And offering telecommuting options makes sense for a videogame developer trying to attract top talent.

Charlebois’ question and a number of others from the SME Council will be published in a report over the coming months. For the sustainability challenges identified by the SME Council in 2012, read last year’s report: SME Sustainability Challenges 2012.