Environmental concerns now hit major companies from every angle—regulatory, legal, public, investor and customer relations.
An increasing number of multinational companies, including Coca-Cola, Dow, DuPont, Holcim, General Electric, Unilever and Weyerhaeuser have, or are creating, Environmental Advisory Boards (EABs).
This is a response to increasing public, non-governmental organization, and government scrutiny and to gain valuable insights into the marketplace in a cost-effective way. An ethical stance can provide a bottom-line boost, especially with the rise of the green consumer.
Some companies have been working for several years already on the need to respond to the sustainable development (or sustainability) challenge—to consider social needs and environmental conditions in production. This implies a new vision and understanding of “development,” investment in technology, and dialogue with local communities and civil society groups.
There are several major reasons for the increased use of Environmental Advisory Boards:
- More corporate CEOs are convinced that the pace of transition to products and services defined as “sustainable” will quicken. This is due to the significant effect of market demand, societal expectations and product innovation.
- Church groups, trade unions, consumers and non-governmental organizations are pressing for higher corporate responsibility standards. There is increasing environmental awareness among consumers and a global acceptance that “corporate responsibility” implies attention to social and environmental needs. Financial services institutions, energy and mining companies, and insurers face a bewildering array of environmental, social and ethical challenges, related to funding huge infrastructure projects in the developing world.
- Some businesses can be taken by surprise if they spend their time thinking about what they are most familiar with—their own business sector, current competitors, customers they know or their organization as it currently exists. Conversely, thinking from the outside-in begins with pondering external changes that might, over time, profoundly affect the business landscape. This includes seemingly irrelevant environmental issues.
- The complexity of global issues requires more than the inspired vision of a single individual. Those who lead businesses need to learn and work together to find new solutions, new markets, and new ways of doing business. That is what environmental advisory boards can help accomplish by bringing together experts who have outside-in knowledge and who bring a range of experiences and insights not available internally.