Chris Laszlo is the author of “Sustainable Value; How the World’s Leading Companies are Doing Well by Doing Good,” (Stanford University Press, 2008). In his San Francisco Chronicle article this week, entitled “Sustainability for competitive advantage,” he espouses taking sustainability measures.
Far from being a cost to society and business, sustainability is emerging as a huge opportunity for both. The key to sustainability is innovation, and that in turn spells competitive advantage, which economists define as above-average profits. If crisis is the womb of creativity, then there is plenty to spur innovation. The World Economic Forum’s Global Economic Risks 2008 report states, “Uncertainty about the short- and medium-term future is as high as it has been for a decade.” The world is now confronted with an unprecedented number of global systemwide challenges, from the liquidity crisis in financial markets to the threat of new diseases on a warming planet. The question we face is: Are we going to collectively wring our hands, decrying the declining state of the world, or are we going to get on with the business of constructing a better future?