• News
  • Columns
  • Interviews
  • BW Communities
  • Events
  • BW TV
  • Subscribe to Print
BW Businessworld

Sustainability Brings Soft Power

Sustainability gives one soft power, or the power to attract. Your appeal goes green.

Photo Credit :


Why is there so much emphasis on sustainability these days? Why are the best minds continuously working towards longevity of our planet and the human race? Is it our mind and the subconscious reminding us that we have to ensure the future of our planet is safe, for herein will live our future generations?

Sustainability gives one soft power, or the power to attract. Your appeal goes green. Sustainability means doing things in way that all your stakeholders and you, are working in the interest of a better planet. Things like ensuring good working and living conditions for your employees, corporate social responsibility (CSR,) environment friendly acts, promoting worthy causes, cutting carbon footprint are things that companies globally have started taking up in their effort to do their part for sustainability impact. It is a serious subject for study as well as a department in many corporations across the world.

Unilever leads by example as one of the first companies to make sure that all of their supply chain is sustainably produced and they have gained immense amount of green appeal, and that is the biggest advantage of sustainability, in terms of the return on money spent on it. You get the loyalty of your customers, pride of your employees and at times, your sales figure are higher than your competitors because people know that your product has been produced in a sustainable manner and they buy it for that reason. People can definitely trust such products more. Quality of such products tends to be higher at times too and companies can get various certifications to showcase their efforts, things that market leaders are doing. You should know that living conditions of workers working to produce your purchase, is of good quality. Moment you ensure things like that, you will be taking steps towards inclusion in the sustainability chain.

Practicing sustainability can be as simple as being a responsible citizen. One can inculcate practices that have an impact on society around them, and that qualifies as sustainability. Instead of thinking ME and NOW, we have to think US and LATER. One of the most interesting things about practicing sustainability is that it’s very fulfilling and you tend to gain in every way. It adds to your soft power and observers ultimately will take note and follow suit. Hence, a chain can form if your actions are pointed at the right direction. It could be something as simple as going online and funding an underprivileged child’s education and nutrition through a NGO.

In a country like India, where there is a distinct divide between the rich, middle class and the poor, sustainability comes into play in a big way. Efforts of business giants in this direction is noteworthy and we have some of the world’s biggest philanthropists living here, but the collectivism is lacking. You don’t have to practice sustainability only if you are a big company or a rich man, you can do it anyway. A startup, if it encodes sustainability in its corporate philosophy, will gain in the long run. Its direction will be in sync with the future of business and rules of engagement. 

Small steps like hiring female employees, donating to worthy causes, participating in fundraising, planting trees wherever possible, paying taxes, promoting employees’ family education, promoting sustainable goods in their supply chain, reducing carbon footprint and moreover, incorporating sustainability in their corporate code of conduct in a serious manner, are things each company and its management can do as their contribution towards the bigger picture. There is no said definition or list of things to do to be sustainable, as it means doing almost anything in a way which is better for world’s long-term future. The field is open to creative thinking and ways of implementation. Big or small, your corporate or individual citizenship is relevant. Train your mind to imbibe in your daily thoughts, your social responsibilities, which then will translate into action. This is a gradual build up exercise for your personal and corporate karma.

Today’s company thinks and plans scenarios from a global perspective. If you are spending money on marketing, and you have sustainability on your side, you will have an edge over others. Lipton is an example of Unilever’s product that is an example that achieved higher numbers than its competitors. The planet is for us to look after, and while at times we have to cut trees, we can make up for it by planting more. Tata group stands out in its commitment to serve and one can only be inspired by the utilization of Tata Group’s profits. It’s all directed towards social welfare.

There are funds and investors who won’t touch you if you are into malpractices of any kind, and if you are a catalyst for sustainability change, you will attract business opportunities, customers and all kinds of partnerships. It is worth it to go the extra distance. Sustainability applies to business practices as well. Adhering to rules of fair play, and thinking of everyone’s interest, is sustainability. As an individual or a corporation, you can be sustainable and profitable at the same time. Your long-term growth can be higher if your practices are liked and your appeal builds up. There is an ethos that comes with green practices and that ethos can be made powerfully strong to propel you forward, if you continue in that direction. You may have to undergo short term losses in lieu of long-term gain.

The India we saw during this COVID-19 pandemic, has shown the spirit and solidarity of people towards one another. An excellent example of sustainability during this time was the large corporations and foundations in India donating to the Prime Minister’s National Relief Fund (PMNRF) and PM CARES Fund. This spirit has exemplified the spirit of sustainability of India Inc but this must continue post the crisis, into the wake of eternity. We saw collectivism at its best with corporates and individuals coming out and going the length to reduce the suffering of the less privileged.

Sustainability can be linked to marketing and you should inspire others by showcasing exemplary sustainability work, but its beyond just that. Putting self before others is sustainability. While it is the fiduciary duty of directors and management to maximize profits, they have the leeway to act in a sustainable manner, even if it means short term loss and long-term gain. Thus, it’s time we see companies of all sizes and industries,  and individuals, work on their DNA to bring sustainability at its core. With increase in awareness about this topic, there will be an automatic conversion of people towards this school of thought.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:

Vaibhav Maloo

The author is Managing Director of Enso Group. He resides in Mumbai. He holds an undergraduate degree in business from Carnegie Mellon University and a postgraduate diploma in global business from Oxford University.

More From The Author >>