Article

How to gain a competitive advantage through environmental sustainability

Leading for the long term

In 1987, the World Commission on Environment and Development published a report titled, “Our Common Future.”1 This document defined sustainability as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”1

 

Today, more than ever, we understand the importance of sustainable management and the value of implementing strategies that seek long-term rewards and benefits over fast-earned gains. The idea of making labs greener has exploded across the globe2 – and rightly so.

 

Clinical laboratories are more energy intensive in comparison to a typical office building.3 In addition, they are significant consumers of water and producers of waste.3,4 As expectations on corporate responsibility and transparency increase, it is exceedingly important for businesses to be aware of their ecological impact and implement initiatives to grow sustainably. Not only does this benefit the environment, but can help boost business and long-term performance. 

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Business incentives for sustainability

Profit

 

Improving financial performance5-8

 

Environmental and social sustainability programs are strongly correlated with good financial performance and also play a role in creating it.8 Companies with high ratings for environmental, social, and governance factors have been shown to have a lower cost of debt and equity. In addition, they were shown to outperform the market in the medium (three to five years) and long (five to ten years) term.8

 

Risk management

 

Improving risk management7,8

 

Leading companies use sustainability initiatives to mitigate risk to their supply chain and operations, reputation, and license to operate.8 Research by McKinsey found that the value at stake from sustainability issues can be as high as 25 to 70 percent of earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortisation.8

Innovation

 

Boosting innovation6-8,11

 

Redesigning products, technologies and processes to meet environmental standards or social needs offers new business opportunities. Innovations that shape how key resources, such as energy, carbon, water, materials and waste are used can pay off well. These five resources greatly impact an organisation’s supply chain, and the potential to boost efficiency and cut costs across these resources is significant.11

Partnership

 

Gaining a competitive advantage through stakeholder engagement7

 

Traditional business models generally create value for shareholders, which can often be at the expense of other stakeholders, including employees, supply chains, civil society and the planet. Sustainable businesses are redefining the corporate ecosystem by designing models that create value for all.

Reputation

 

Enhancing your workplace’s reputation and talent acquisition7,9,10

 

Attracting and retaining talent is a critical driver of corporate performance and a potential competitive advantage. Research suggests that the reputation of an organisation and the value it places on sustainability are important factors for current job seekers, who want to work for socially and ethically responsible companies.9,10

Adopting a green purchasing policy for sustainable growth

 

One key objective to achieve sustainability, which can be implemented right away, is to adopt a green purchasing policy.3 The manufacturers of lab instruments are aware of the importance of good environmental practices, and should be committed to supply ecologically efficient instruments.

Therefore, when purchasing a new analyser solution, consider the following factors that can help reduce your environmental impact.

Sustainable growth

Solid & liquid waste

Consider a vendor that is continuously striving to improve and reduce solid waste without compromising quality of results.

Water & energy consumption

Understand if the solution is capable of consolidating different disciplines and assays on one platform and the effect it can have on reduced resource consumption.

 

Refurbishment/
recycle

Investigate if the company is supporting good recycling and/or refurbishing practices of instruments and equipment that have reached the end of their life.

Overall Environmental strategy

Give preference to solution providers who strive for sustainability and orient their safety, security, health, and environmental practices to the ISO14000 family (environmental management).12

 

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Abbreviations: 

ISO:  International Organisation for Standardisation

 

 

References

 

  1. World Commission on Environment and Development. (1987). Report available from: http://www.un-documents.net/our-common-future.pdf [Accessed November 2020]

  2. Relph R. (2020). Article available from: https://www.labmanager.com/business-management/making-sustainable-labs-a-reality-22090 [Accessed November 2020]

  3. Lopez JB. (2017). Clin Biochem Rev 38, 3–11 

  4. Burton A and Krug B. (2017). Article available from: https://www.onepointesolutions.com/common-challenges-and-opportunities-for-creating-a-sustainable-lab/

  5. Eccles RG, Ioannou I, and Serafeim G. Paper available from: http://www.nber.org/papers/w17950.pdf [Accessed November 2020]

  6. Cerin P and Karlson L. (2002). Ecological Economics 40, 13-22 

  7. Whelen T and Fink C. (2016). Article available from: https://hbr.org/2016/10/the-comprehensive-business-case-for-sustainability [Accessed November 2020]

  8. Bonini S and Swartz S. (2014). Report available from https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/dotcom/client_service/sustainability/pdfs/mck%20on%20srp%202014/srp_2014_profits%20with%20purpose [Accessed November 2020]

  9. Jenkin M. (2015). Article available from https://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2015/may/05/millennials-employment-employers-values-ethics-jobs [Accessed November 2020]

  10. Cone Communications LLC. (2016). Article available from https://www.conecomm.com/research-blog/2016-millennial-employee-engagement-study [Accessed November 2020]

  11. Capozucca P. (2012). Article available from: https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/deloitte-review/issue-10/sustainability-2-0-innovation-and-growth-through-sustainability.html#:~:text=In%20many%20cases%2C%20sustainability%20can,can%20pay%20off%20especially%20well. [Accessed November 2020]

  12. International Organisation of Standards. ISO description available from:  https://www.iso.org/iso-14001-environmental-management.html [Accessed November 2020]