In the last 10 years, I have worked with a variety of organizations across many sectors. These companies have touted their environmental and sustainability practices. Corporate entities seem to be moving towards making the choice to conduct business in a less harmful way. This is good news.
The rise in popularity of sustainable life choices (vegetarianism, veganism, electric or hybrid cars) and economic models (the circular economy, the sharing economy) is fundamentally interesting and it points to a longer-term trend of simpler living. This, too, is good news.
And as these choices take hold, the investment world is changing in similar fashion. Corporations' sustainability initiatives are being evaluated as important variables alongside traditional financial metrics to determine corporate "investability." Divestment initiatives are taking place around the world. Studies have repeatedly shown that "good" business investments don't underperform other standard diversified portfolios. In fact, many studies show that "good" companies have an edge relative to the index.
Governments are taking notice of the evolution toward better lifestyles, better business and better governance — and not just out of necessity. As we all know, COP 21 took place in France early this month, and the world's leaders devised what we hope are the steps forward in addressing the climate challenge issues that face our world. The world is changing — and for the better. This is good news.
Never before has there been a more direct incentive for a corporation to perform ethically and sustainably. News from the United Nations earlier this year that we have begun to make a dent in the climate change issue is promising, but only if individuals and businesses keep up our end of the bargain with our lifestyle choices. If we can continue the pace, this, too, is good news.
But problems are inevitable. A good example is that sustainability has lost its meaning. A number of businesses have begun touting their sustainability measures as a differentiator, but that differentiation is only true when a business takes it seriously.
Japman Bajaj is co-founder of Soshal Group Inc., curator of Calgary Global Shapers of the World Economic Forum, and co-chair of SHAPE North America 2015