chapter  14
29 Pages

Business Excellence

Companies started to come under pressure from governments to reduce their impacts upon the environment and society more than 30 years ago, giving rise to a continuing swathe of regulation to oblige them to internalize more and more of the costs they once imposed upon society. But all of today’s progressive companies have now moved way beyond the regulated minimum, and are voluntarily seeking out a more durable convergence between their shareholders’ interests and broader societal interests. Some of this is serious; some is still in the greenwash mode – or ‘bluewash’ in the case of the United Nations Global Compact. Recent initiatives, all underpinned by a strong business case, have stimulated more creative partnerships to help fashion sustainable livelihoods for some of the world’s poorest people. The real test, however, is to gauge just how successful companies have been in ‘mainstreaming’ these sustainability behaviours through more integrated management practices and better metrics and accounting. This is hardly the high point in today’s sustainable development debates – but crucial in understanding what’s really happening in practice.