Sustainability is currently being talked about everywhere but what exactly is it and why is every industry, from fashion to finance, suddenly hiring a sustainability manager?

What is it?

The Oxford dictionary definition of sustainability has two meanings: 1. The ability to be maintained at a certain rate or level. 2. Avoidance of the depletion of natural resources in order to maintain an ecological balance. The Bruntland Report for the World Commission on Environment and Development (1992) defines sustainable development as: "Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."  Recently, the word sustainability has come to cover all things ‘eco’ and there are a variety of ‘sustainable’ blogs popping up which tell you everything from how to make your house more eco-friendly to how to bring up a baby without adding to the un-biodegradable piles of disposable nappies and wipes.

“A good definition of sustainable business is one that makes whole commercial networks better - enriching all participants” 

Robert Armstrong

The Sustainability Manager

In recent years the role of the sustainability manager has blossomed.  I don’t remember it being a thing 10 years ago but now it seems that every large company is hiring one. What is the role and why is it suddenly so popular? Well firstly, its important to realise that not all are the same.  While most are in place to monitor the impact of their company on the planet and make positive changes, not all are focused on the benefits for the planet. In fact, recently a colleague had lunch with a ‘sustainability manager’ from a large PLC and his role is not to do with the sustainability of the planet or his company’s impact on climate change.  His role is to ensure the sustainability of the company economically and that is a very different thing (or is it? Perhaps not as we find out later). Let’s assume we are discussing the former.  Sustainability managers ensure that their company upholds and works towards finding new, innovative and economically reductive ways to stay green. They are in charge of developing, implementing and monitoring company or organisational environmental strategies.  Usually the Sustainability Manager works independently like an auditor. They find solutions to environmental impact problems and train individuals and groups within the company.

Why do the big corporations hire them?

There are 3 main reasons:

1. To avoid bad press

2. To give an positive external image

3. To positively impact the bottom line 

Linking eco and financial sustainability 

Earlier, I tried to distinguish between resource focused sustainability managers and those looking at company longevity.  However, they are more closely linked that I initially thought. A recent article written by Robert Armstrong (Financial Times ‘Boldness in Business’ magazine), discusses the role of sustainability in the longevity of businesses.  He points out that businesses need to look for ‘long term greed’ rather than the short term buck and the most impressive are doing this by focusing on a holistic attitude to their businesses and a rock solid vision. 

By focusing on a long term end goal and looking after all customers, employees, suppliers and community involved, companies often end up stronger and more financial secure in  the long run, able to ride out the short term bumps which inevitably come with starting a business. To sum up, sustainability is achievable if we strive for balance in business.  Financial gain is all well and good but it needs to be part of a bigger picture and as a result of having fundamental values and a core vision which is more important than the money itself. At Takk Cap. our vision to tackle climate change by investing in technology is firmly rooted in our 360 degree approach to business.  This is not just a fund.  This is a movement. We are driven to tackle climate change, educate and promote ‘people first’ company culture.