The elephant in the room is that while sustainability will continue to be relevant to the business operations of retailers and product manufactures, management has utterly failed to make sustainability a material or even a well understood concept for front-line employees, customers and most product brands, except during times of crisis.
In my work as a business management consultant, I find that addressing "environmental issues" is most often not a person's "day job." When starting out, many managers don't know where to turn for advice or are confounded by the information that is sometimes contradictory. Certainly, there is a lot of information out there, and some of it is misinformation -- from suppliers, to consultants, to so-called "environmental" organizations.
Using sustainability as strategy can drive change within a company's supply chain by engaging suppliers and service providers with the resulting savings running into the millions of dollars a year. A case in point: one of Canadian Tire's most popular products is a six-foot folding utility table, selling many tens-of-thousands a year. The company collaborated with its supplier on product redesign and packaging to use less raw materials to make and package the product.
During a poor economy, it can be a challenge for a business to increase profitability as competition for the "cautious consumer" intensifies and there is increasing pressure on margins. But a recession offers the perfect opportunity to question the way things have always been done -- and drive out waste and inefficiency. One of Jim's favourite slogans is: "a crisis is a terrible thing to waste."