Perspectives on greener product development and manufacturing from Sustainable Minds, our partners, customers and contributors.

The eight biggest myths about sustainability in business

By Vijay Kanal on November 30, 2009

In our research, and in engagements with dozens of Fortune 1000 companies, we are sometimes surprised at the reluctance to pursue environmental sustainability initiatives, because of misconceptions about their cost or benefits. But we have also seen how some companies have embraced sustainability whole-heartedly, and are profiting from it.

 As a way of helping to get every company on the journey to sustainability, here are some of the most common myths we have heard from otherwise successful companies. As surprising as some of these might sound -- like the idea that there is no money to be had from sustainability efforts -- these ideas persist in companies large and small and in any industry.

1. It's a cost and we can't afford it right now.
Sustainability should be considered not just because it is the right thing to do, but also because it makes business sense. If an initiative cannot be justified from a strategic, financial, operational, marketing, or employee recruitment/retention perspective, don't do it. But we have found that in almost every corner of an organization there is a fundamental business reason for being more sustainable.

As Richard Goode, Director of Sustainability at Alcatel-Lucent told us recently, "In good times, sustainability can be a competitive differentiator, in lean times, it's a defensive strategy, and in really hard times, it can determine your survival." Xerox CEO Ann Mulcahey shares this view saying that being "a good corporate citizen" saved the company from bankruptcy. Refer to Myth #3 to see how companies have made money from their sustainability investments.

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