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Leaders use sustainability to drive high performance by approaching their current sustainability challenges as an opportunity to get closer to customers and find new business opportunities.
As companies around the world struggle to respond to climate change and sustainability imperatives, a handful of leading companies are differentiating themselves by focusing not just on their own sustainability concerns, but on their customers' environmental agendas as well. In doing so, they're forging stronger relationships with both consumers and business-to-business customers who, increasingly, are making decisions based not just on cost and service, but on cost, service and sustainability.
Such relationships, in turn, may work to increase customer loyalty and provide these customer-focused companies a competitive advantage in an increasingly challenging economy.
Leading companies have begun to realize that sustainability is about more than following regulations, managing risk and bearing new costs. Organizations as diverse as the Clorox Co., Dell and CBRE have recognized they can be environmentally responsible and position themselves for competitive advantage. Such leaders also create opportunities for performance gains that appear even more attractive in challenging economic times—such as the substantial cost savings that can result from reducing waste and increasing energy efficiency.
Moreover, helping customers fulfill their sustainability agenda offers companies an opportunity to build trust and credibility, bringing companies closer to their customers and helping to boost customer loyalty.
Even better, understanding the customer’s sustainability needs can sometimes yield profitable new business opportunities. Innovators are already finding ways to bring sustainability to the mass market in ways that make sense for consumers. Some companies, for instance, have introduced laundry detergents that clean well in cold water—which could lower consumers' water bills and, if used on a wide scale, would significantly reduce US carbon emissions.
Such innovations, which help consumers or customers meet both their environmental and economic goals, can offer companies a significant competitive advantage in challenging times.
Successful companies are focusing on their customers' sustainability issues in three specific ways. First, they strive to understand the factors changing both consumer and B2B demands related to sustainability. Next, they seek out new business opportunities created by their customer's sustainability agenda. Lastly, they create partnerships and coalitions to boost their own sustainability credentials and win their customers' trust.
Ultimately, companies that view shifting sustainability demands as a chance to get closer to customers and find new business opportunities are poised to emerge as winners in an increasingly competitive business environment.
February 11, 2009
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