Sustainability has established itself as a long-term trend, also outside of the global warming debate. There are several reasons for this. An example is the quality of the air in major Chinese cities, which demonstrates to impressive effect how an economy that focuses so heavily on resource consumption jeopardises its own long-term development potential. The flip side of the coin is represented by regions that pursue a more cautious environment policy, like Northern Europe, Canada, or Switzerland. These countries rank high not only in matters of quality of life. Compared to less sustainable neighbouring regions, they also experience better economic development, not least because they are attractive places for highly-qualified people to live due to their intact environment.
It also has been discovered in recent years that sustainable business is also worthwhile for individual businesses in several ways. Exercising care in the use of resources and the deployment of new, low-consumption technologies not only reduces energy and raw material costs. On the whole, they result in more efficient processes within the business, for example by reducing travel with the more restrained use of local resources and enabling storage to be optimised. The development of unproductive reserve ICT capacity can be minimised by switching to modern cloud technologies. The sharing economy expands this principle of resource sharing to personal tools like the car.
This makes sustainability a driving force for ongoing optimisation and innovation.
Added to this are positive effects on revenues, because each purchase decision includes an emotional element. Products and services that convey a positive feeling can be positioned in a higher-class segment and achieve better customer loyalty.
Especially among the young generation, sustainability is increasingly becoming a critical sales and recruitment argument. "Digital natives" are adverse to the idea of ruining their and their children's future. They sense a strong need, both in how they work and how they consume, to do something good. Interestingly, surveys have shown that this is not only the case in cities in the developed world, but that this also reflects the wishes and needs of the young generation in the emerging markets of Asia and South America.
The latest developments in communications are intensifying this. Social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Xing are used not only to exchange ideas and thoughts but also especially to maintain a person's own image. It's better to not have a bad reputation on these platforms. Friendships and connections with individual persons, organisations and businesses are held in high esteem, however, and these have a positive effect on a person's own standing.
Added to these more or less directly quantifiable factors are the indirect effects of a positive attitude of any given employee towards the company. Sustainability provides – from the simple employee to the CEO – a firm personal sense of attachment that generates commitment beyond the average.