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Partnering to Drive Sustainable Business Results

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Martin Berman, Managing Director at Micro-Pak, Ltd, contributed this article to BusinessNewsDaily's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Sustainability and environmental initiatives are no longer simply buzzwords used by businesses in an effort to garner community praise. More and more businesses are truly committed to sustainable business initiatives, not only from a sense of global responsibility, but also due to the financial benefits that result.

Yet as more business leaders think about ways to further their progress, one important possibility is often overlooked — partnering with other businesses to leverage greater results.

For example, many businesses have identified packaging reduction as a key initiative and are engaging their design teams to create products that require less packaging from the outset of the design process. But by also engaging their suppliers, stakeholders throughout the supply chain can work together to develop packaging with better environmental performance, more efficiently produced and cheaper to transport.

Customers are taking note of environmental performance as well. At a time when toxins increasingly infiltrate the supply chain, consumers have responded with greater scrutiny that can change their purchasing decisions. Companies that are committed to environmental performance and transparency can differentiate their business and carve out a competitive advantage.

As businesses look for partners, some considerations include the following:

Understand where your biggest impacts lie. In many consumer product companies, this list includes waste, CO2 emissions, water use and packaging. Focusing efforts on the areas most critical to your business provides the greatest return on investment.

Determine which potential partners have the biggest impact on your company's ability to achieve its key sustainability priorities. Many sustainability initiatives require collaboration among stakeholders to optimize results. Determining where outside stakeholder influence on achieving your objectives is greatest will help identify which partnership opportunities have the biggest upside.

In our business this includes reducing packaging, waste and emissions from transportation. An overwhelming number of retailers and consumer product companies have set public goals in these areas, all of which can achieve results faster through partnerships with key suppliers.

Identify credible partners. It is important to sort through potential partners who deliver real value on sustainability initiatives versus those who are simply pursuing a marketing angle. The following attributes can help cut through the noise:

  • Sustainability mission and strategy. Businesses that are truly committed to environmental initiatives will often make key elements of their strategy public.
  • Goals and metrics. Organizationsthat develop metrics and set public goals are more likely to achieve meaningful progress on sustainability initiatives.
  • Certifications. Credible certifications from organizations such as Cradle to Cradle, Forestry Stewardship Council or Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design provide a third-party verification of sound environmental practices and demonstrate a strong commitment. Not all certifications provide the same level of credibility, though, so it is important to investigate their merits.

Companies that are committed to sustainability practices can both achieve superior business results and play a meaningful role in improving the environment. Partnering with organizations with similar commitments can leverage faster results on both fronts.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher.