Wednesday 28th September 2016                 Change text size:

Report calls for businesses to move from ‘doing less harm’ to having positive impact



Corn Field in Summer Drought

In order to ensure success in the face of growing social and environmental pressures, businesses should move from an approach that aims to “do less harm” to striving to have a positive impact on the world, a new report says.

The report, from Forum of the Future, The Climate Group and WWF-UK, calls on businesses to take a ‘net positive’ approach – defined as businesses demonstrating positive environmental and societal impacts in key areas of their operations.

It argues that a strong sustainability strategy can benefit a business by giving it a competitive advantage, supply chain security and the space to innovate products and services through moving the organisation into a leadership space.

The report sets out principles that organisations aspiring to become net positive should follow. These include making a “positive, demonstrable impact in key material areas” and showing “best practice in corporate responsibility and sustainability across a spectrum of social, environmental and economic impact areas”.

Sally Uren, CEO of Forum of the Future, said, “The term ‘net positive’ is not new itself but has never been properly defined, leading to it being dismissed in some quarters as repackaged corporate social responsibility. We hope that the principles outlined in this report will help bring clarity and push the agenda forward.

“Companies taking brave steps towards being net positive are already reaping the benefits in terms of securing the supply of resources they rely on, investing in radical innovation and shaping their operating context.”

Uren added that companies that are taking steps to make a positive contribution to the planet would be the “success stories of the future”.

The report includes a number of case studies highlighting the benefits that many companies are already seeing from net positive approaches. For instance Kingfisher, a home improvement retailer, set a goal of having all of its timber responsibly sourced two decades ago and now helps reforest degraded land, enhance the quality of standing forests and actively advocates for policy changes.

The company estimates that this approach will save it between £45 million and £60 million a year by 2020.

Dax Lovegrove, head of business sustainability and innovation at WWF-UK, said, “A net positive movement will drive a restorative economy – an economy that aligns with restoring clean air, fisheries, forests, rivers and many other of the planet’s assets that have been lost in recent decades due to the current model of unfettered growth.”

Photo: Andreas Krappweis via flickr

Further reading:

Diversity in business forms can deliver sustainable growth, says report

Sustainability top priority for quarter of British small businesses

Survey: CEOs see opportunities within sustainability, but not immediate benefits

Companies struggling to adopt sustainability, says Boston Consulting Group and MIT

51% of corporations emitting unsustainable levels of CO2, study finds


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