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Most U.S. Companies Have A “Sustainability Plan” To Make Them Look Better

U.S. companies are creating plans to be more environmentally friendly–but they don’t really know that it means.

Most U.S. Companies Have A “Sustainability Plan” To Make Them Look Better

More and more companies are starting to create policies about mitigating the effects their operations have on the planet and our society. A new audit finds that 55% of U.S. companies surveyed have a “sustainability plan,” with 12% working on a strategy and 19% saying they will eventually develop a plan. That’s nearly every single company in the country. What’s in the water of corporate America’s?

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They’ve realized that people care about this stuff. The largest reason companies cited in developing their plan–37%–was “enhancing brand reputation.” It’s as good an argument as any for people voting with their checkbooks. The increased focus on the impact of products has reached boardrooms. Clearly, companies don’t want to be caught on the wrong side of a new consumer expectation that they’re doing the right thing. But it’s also worth noting that companies aren’t taking these actions because they think it’s the right thing–that doesn’t come up as a reason–only that they think you do. And you thought you had no influence.

If these plans start taking effect, are we going to see a massive change as companies change the way they do business? Well, not likely. Do you know what a “sustainability plan” is? Neither does any one else, even the companies employing them, who have myriad questions about how to measure their environmental impact, says the report by KPMG International. A plan could be utterly meaningless and no one would know (it would still help the brand!). But once they have the plans in place, it should be an easy fix to make them work better.

The most heartening parts of the report are that–besides wanting to look better–companies are often creating plans because they find they save them money. It’s a sweet spot all environmental advances need to hit: they need to make life easier and cheaper (as well as cleaner) than the status quo. As more companies catch on that that might be true, this whole thing gets a lot easier.

Image via The Noun Project

Follow Fast Company on Twitter. Morgan Clendaniel can be reached by email or on Twitter.

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About the author

Morgan is a senior editor at Fast Company. He edits the Impact section, formerly FastCoExist.com. Have an idea for a story? You can reach him at mclendaniel [at] fastcompany.com

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