Corporate Social Responsibility · Marketing Strategy

Why is sustainability so seldom embedded at the early stages of a business startup?

Marie-Noëlle Keijzer Msc, Social Entrepreneur, Experienced Executive, Climate Leader.

July 14th, 2016

Why is sustainability so seldom embedded at the early stages of a business startup? 

Tom Cunniff Founder at Cunniff Consulting, B2B Brand Consultancy

July 14th, 2016

You can't think about sustainability in general until you have a business that can be sustained.

Think Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. At the outset, everything's about the bottom of the pyramid. The business has urgent physiological needs  -- build MVP or die, obtain a first customer or die, etc, all while keeping a close eye on your burn rate. Sustainability issues are way up high on the pyramid toward self-actualization. I'm not suggesting that Sustainability is unimportant -- just that a start-up faces far more urgent, life-or-death priorities at the outset.

Saravjit Singh Independent Consultant and Trainer

July 14th, 2016

Sustainability is strongly related to authentic leadership, employee involvement and standardized, easy to follow, work processes - hallmarks of organizational excellence.

If any one of the above three ingredients is weak, then we get a condition where sustainability is difficult to achieve.

Henry Pineda President at HRP Enterprises Inc

July 15th, 2016

My thought is having manufacturers design products to be returned to manufactures to be recycled. An example of this would be Iphones, which can be robotically assembled. Returned phones can then disassembled. By going to automobile manufacturers associations. The same concept would apply. The same could be done with Washers, dryers, etc. The start up could be Wall-E. lol. Will be sending you another, elevator pitch tommorrow. Hank Pineda, CIO HRP Recycling 714-244-6558

Jim Bowes Promoting and producing sustainable natural-media techniques

July 20th, 2016

Dear Kooveli,
This is why many sustainable companies with purpose are thriving! Tonychocolney in Amsterdam is now one of the largest chocolate companies in the Netherlands. Their chocolate is good but it is their purpose that is driving their succeed. 
Forget government and forget the big brands who talk a lot. It will be the little guys today that will be big tomorrow. Business will help change. Consumers will drive it. 
It is working it just will take time and dedication. This is where thinking profit first people and companies will fail. It's an old model in a new world. Greedy capitalism is dead. It's just no one has told the body yet. 

Marie-Noëlle Keijzer Msc, Social Entrepreneur, Experienced Executive, Climate Leader.

July 14th, 2016

Hi Robert, I notice that startups often just focus on growing their business and when they reach a certain size, only then do companies start looking into doing good. From experience I see this as a missed opportunity to embed doing good from the start, (even if only at small scale for obvious reasons)  and make it part of the company DNA. 

Shel Horowitz I help organizations thrive by building social transformation into your products, your services, and your marketing

July 22nd, 2016

It is totally possible to build a new company that is green from the get-go and also designed to be profitable. As Stan and Robert note, if you're not profitable, you go out of business and all your green initiatives are wasted. I'd say it's actually easier to bake in the commitment to a better world than to try to graft it on later, into a corporate culture that may not support it.

But I believe it's actually easier to profit if you go beyond "sustainability" to "regenerativity." Companies whose products and services don't just keep things from getting worse but actually make things better will have an easier time finding markets and becoming profitable. I explain the basics of this in my 15-minute TEDx talk, "Impossible is a Dare": my TEDx Talk, "Impossible is a Dare: Business for a Better World" http://www.ted.com/tedx/events/11809

This is the kind of consulting I specialize in.

Henry Pineda, tell us more. Maybe I can help. There are already a lot of companies building for disassembly rather than destruction at end-of-life, especially in Europe. Susan McPherson and Julie Trell, I'm on my way to check out your pages. Might be some ways we can collaborate. Jim Bowes, right as usual. Kooveli, it doesn't have to be that way AT ALL, and sooner or later, most companies will realize that sacrificing ethics is also a sacrifice of long-term profitability.

John DDPE I build powerful customer responsive organizations

July 15th, 2016

Henry, there is a whole field of DfR Design for Recycling. Very interesting stuff. BMW has integrated in this design concept. There are many. You have a solid concept, now how to differentiate. 

Katarina Miechowka Founder at Sketching Tomorrow Consulting

July 14th, 2016

Way too many businesses still think of sustainability in a generic way instead of crafting priorities based on their business strategies.The result is unfortunately often a hodgepodge of sustainability activities disconnected from the company's strategy, hence not supporting the business case.
Also, from an organisational point of view, employees need to have a clear understanding who owns sustainability (ideally all of them), how it is part of their deliverables, what measures and reward systems are in place.
I hope this helps, happy to have other points of view!

Julie Trell Consultant: Corporate Philanthropy, Enterprising Educator, Creative THNKr, Door Opener, Light Bulb Turner-On

July 14th, 2016

It's not clear whether you're asking about environmental sustainability or financial sustainability. If it's the former, I've found that it's really the founders who have to believe in it and then find the resources to design or build it. If it's key to the belief of starting a business, like Marc Benioff did at the start of Salesforce, the right people, investors, employees, and resources will show up. Along with my friend @Susan (above), I've been working in this space for a while - here's a blog I wrote when founders do consider building philanthropic or sustainability programs into their culture and business http://bit.ly/29FudTW

Jim Bowes Promoting and producing sustainable natural-media techniques

July 17th, 2016

It may bring you some comfort to know that in Europe and in a few countries in particular, sustainability is part of the start-up environment.
Perhaps the reason why Europe is ahead of the States is that we have long moved beyond sustainability being only about the environment. In many circles social enterprises are hotter than sustainable enterprises. In the end it is about a new way of doing business that is not all about financial profits.
For many of the reasons stated above, concentrating on the environment can be challenging. Let's be honest, being a start-up is difficult, being a sustainable start-up is just that much harder. It's only for the brave and truly dedicated. Those willing to sacrifice for the bigger picture. Those who look beyond themselves.
A balance between people, profits and the planet fits better within the old models we know and tend to stick to. The green movement even scares some. 
It seems that many of the reasons stated above are based on "money" and perhaps this is why Europe (I live in the Netherlands) is also further down the road. The social systems in place in much of Europe have shown us that money is only one thing we can measure to determine success. Fulfilment, purpose and working for the bigger picture are just as, if not more important to many entrepreneurs. 
 We like money too but it seems in some places chasing the almighty dollar is the only way to measure success. Hardcore capitalism has not gotten us to a very good place. Take a look around.
Check out the B Corp movement which was started in the USA but is booming in Europe because we have been setting up our businesses with these values and principle as the driving force for over 10 years.
Attracting young talent, being able to distance yourself from pretenders and tapping into a growing network of like minded businesses is helping many sustainable companies succeed.
VC's are only one source of capital. Impact investors are another and there are more and more people who have money to invest and are looking to use it in a way that will make the world a better place. A longer term vision with a much bigger payoff - our children and grandchildren having a nice life style like we have had.
Sure it is still the early stages but if you look at what is going on in Europe in particular, you may find that actually sustainability is part of the early stages of most start-ups. Maybe you are just in the wrong place.
Thankfully money for money's sake may have worked for my generation but I think the younger generations are just smarter than that.
Funny if you look at the comments. Older people are all about the money, the younger people sees things differently. The world will be much better off when the "greed is good" generations have left the building. At 53, my generation is also all about the money for the most part. Talk to a 24 year old and there is a big difference. Thank goodness for youth! Move over old farts!