Sustainability Corporate responsibility

How business can lead a sustainability revolution

The triple bottom line—social responsibility, economic value, and environmental impact—is built into the student experience at Loyola’s Quinlan School of Business. Students learn how to succeed at business while also supporting all stakeholders and the planet.

Nancy E. Landrum, PhD, professor of sustainability management with an appointment in both Quinlan and Loyola’s Institute of Environmental Sustainability, outlines the key reasons all business leaders should care about the environment and what they can do to create a healthier planet.

Business and sustainability

At current rates of production and consumption, it is estimated that by 2050 we will need 2.3 planets to sustain us. Nine billion people cannot share this planet and live well if business and industry do not take leadership and make a change.

Nancy Landrum, PhD, is a leader in helping businesses adopt more sustainable practices.

Why should business care about the environment?

  1. We need a healthy planet to live.
  2. Environmental health is directly correlated with health care costs, quality of life, and other factors that make healthy communities and healthy employees.

  3. Companies need a healthy planet to operate.
  4. Companies rely upon the resources provided by a healthy planet, such as water, energy, clean air, healthy soil, and more.

  5. Caring about the environment can provide companies with a competitive advantage.
  6. Customers are demanding more responsible companies that make more environmentally-friendly products, yet research shows that most companies are just making minor incremental changes and gradually advancing through a progression of stages of corporate sustainability. A radical change based upon science will set the company well beyond its competitors and produce benefits such as increased market share, reduced costs, and increased profits.

Nine billion people cannot share this planet and live well if business and industry do not take leadership and make a change.”
—Nancy Landrum, professor of sustainability management

What can businesses do?

  1. Adopt science-based carbon reduction targets.
  2. The top sustainability goal by corporations is a plan to reduce carbon emissions but most businesses set targets that are convenient, such as incremental improvements over a competitor or over the last target.

    Few businesses are aware of the drastic reductions that climate scientists tell us are necessary. For example, Dell has aligned its reduction target with the science and is pursuing a 50 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2020.

  3. Adopt circular models in resource usage and operations.
  4. As production and consumption increase, resource demands are intensified, which lead to resource shortages and price volatility. In nature’s circular model, there is no waste. No item goes unused and at their end-of-life all items are integrated into the life of another item.

    If businesses can follow nature’s model of circularity, the need for new resources would decrease and the amount of waste would decrease while the reuse of existing resources would increase and profits would increase.

    For example, MUD Jeans uses recycled cotton and denim to make their products, offers a jean leasing program, takes back used jeans, repairs and resells them as vintage jeans, recycles those that are too worn to reuse, and ships jeans in reusable and recyclable packaging.

  5. Work toward the Sustainable Development Goals.
  6. The United Nations put forth 17 Sustainable Development Goals, or Global Goals, to guide us on the work that is necessary to achieve sustainability. These goals include social, environmental, and economic targets, such as hunger and poverty reduction, improved access to clean water and sanitation, adoption of clean energy, and more.

    Depending upon the nature of each business, several of the Global Goals will be directly impacted by the company’s operations. For example, The North Face, an outdoor sports and apparel company, addresses one of the Global Goals related to protecting, conserving, and restoring the environment through their extensive conservation efforts.

If each business does its part to work within the boundaries of our environment by adopting science-based emissions reduction targets and nature-based circular models while also working toward the Global Goals, the combined effort will lead to a more sustainable planet to allow 9 billion people to live well.