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Government legislation and regulation for a ‘carbon constrained’ future is on its way. Being forced to comply with potentially onerous requirements and an imposed timetable is likely to be much more costly than taking voluntary action now to achieve sustainability.
Prices are forecast to increase for goods, services and basic utilities as the cost of carbon (emissions) is introduced. Companies that have anticipated this and reduced their carbon footprint will have avoided these significant costs.
These ‘early adopters’ will benefit from both from increased operational efficiencies and as well as direct cost savings; energy costs alone are forecast to increase 60% in Australia by 2013. (3)
With awareness growing steadily in the public arena, businesses are increasingly expected to act, and be seen to act, as agents of social good and their executives representative of desirable behaviour and thought leadership.
Consumers are starting to ‘vote with their feet’, supporting businesses they perceive to have good track records in social responsibility policies and practices and actively moving away from those with poor reputations.
Attraction and retention of talented staff is paramount, hence a company’s performance on sustainability, and perceived performance, are critical. Employees and potential recruits are increasingly taking sustainability issues into account when weighing up their employment options.
In this context, organisational leadership will also play a major role in achieving the status of ‘employer of choice’.
Investors and financial analysts are assessing climate risk (1) , so it is likely to be factored into ‘relative attractiveness’ measures of companies as investments. If an investor is weighing up whether to invest in Company A or Company B, the question of their approaches to sustainability and level of success in achieving sustainability targets may well be determining factors.
Reputations and brands need protecting and future-proofing as consumers increase their demand for environmental and social responsibility. (2)
The focus is expanding from shareholders’ returns to stakeholders’ needs. No longer will the bottom line be allowed to be the only measure of corporate success. This implies better reporting and transparency in relation to corporate social responsibility (CSR). Sustainability is a key element in any successful CSR strategy.

(1) Green Winners” – AT Kearney, 2009
(2) Green Marketing and ‘Eco Aussies “ – Nielsen, May 2009
(3) High power prices not the real story” – Total Environment Centre, Dec 2009

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