Making the profitable transition towards sustainable business practice

Hargroves, Karlson, Desha, Cheryl, Palousis, Nick, & Smith, Michael (2005) Making the profitable transition towards sustainable business practice. In 2005 ASEE/AAEE 4th Global Colloquium on Engineering Education, 26-29 September 2005, Sydney, N.S.W. (Unpublished)


The last three decades have been difficult for companies and industry. In an increasingly competitive international business climate with shifting national environmental regulations, higher standards are being demanded by the consumer and community groups, not-to-mention the escalating cost of primary resources such as water, steel and minerals. The cause of these pressures is the traditional notion held by business executives and engineers that there is an inherent trade off between eco-efficiency and improving the economic bottom line. However there is significant evidence and examples of best practice to show that there is in fact no trade-off between the environment and the economy if sustainable development through continual improvement is adopted. It is highly possible therefore for companies to make a profitable transition towards sustainable business practice, where along the transition significant business opportunities can be taken advantage of.

Companies are by their very nature dynamic, influential and highly capable of adapting to change. Making an organisational transformation to a sustainable business is not outside the capacity of the typical company, who know much of what is needed already to change their activities to satisfy current market demands while achieving competitiveness. However in order to make the transition towards sustainable business practice companies require some key mechanisms such as accurate information on methodologies and opportunities, understanding of the financial and non-financial incentives, permission from stakeholders and shareholders, understanding of the emerging market opportunities, a critical mass of leaders in their sector and demonstrated case studies, and awarding appropriate risk-taking activities undertaken by engineers and CEOs. Satisfying these requirements will adopt an innovative culture within the company that strives for continual improvement and successfully transforms itself to achieve competitiveness in the 21st Century.

This paper will summarise the experiences of The Natural Edge Project (TNEP) and its partners in assisting organisations to make a profitable transition towards sustainable business practice through several initiatives. The Natural Advantage of Nations publication provides the critical information required by business leaders and engineers to set the context of sustainable business practice. The Profiting in a Carbon Constrained World report, developed with Natural Capitalism Inc led by Hunter Lovins, summarises the opportunities available to companies to take advantage of the carbon trading market mechanisms such as the Chicago Climate Exchange and European Climate Exchange. The Sustainability Helix then guides the company through the transition by identifying the key tools and methodologies required by companies to reduce environmental loading while dramatically improving resource productivity and achieving competitiveness. Finally, the Engineering Sustainable Solutions Program delivers the key engineering information required by companies and university departments to deliver sustainable engineering solutions. The initiatives are of varying complexity and level of application, however all are designed to provide key staff the critical information required to make a profitable transition towards sustainable business practice. It is then their responsibility to apply and teach their knowledge to the rest of the organisation.

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ID Code: 85224
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ENGINEERING (090000) > ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERING (090700) > Environmental Technologies (090703)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Curriculum and Pedagogy Theory and Development (130202)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > EDUCATION (130000) > CURRICULUM AND PEDAGOGY (130200) > Science Technology and Engineering Curriculum and Pedagogy (130212)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Science & Engineering Faculty
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2005 The Author(s)
Deposited On: 10 Aug 2015 01:12
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2017 14:43

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