Waiting for calamity to strike, not knowing how severe the consequences are going to be — as I watched news channels reporting on Cyclone Phailin a few months ago I couldn’t stop thinking if disasters like this were ever going to end.

In June last year, Uttarakhand witnessed devastating floods and landslides killing thousands of people. The list is endless.

We talk about sustainability everyday, about leaving behind a better planet for our future generations, about using resources efficiently and about sustained development.

Unfortunately climate change, global warming, exploitation of resources, environmental degradation and the race between countries for uncontrolled growth are the harsh realities that we cannot ignore.

Has sustainability just become a topic for textbooks and research, another word in the long list of MBA jargon, a word that managers use when they talk about the CSR activities of their organisations?

If the answer is yes then it is high time this changed.

As MBA students we learn about sustainable practices and the need for sustainable corporations for the betterment of the human civilisation in various courses.

Not Just CSR Managers need to understand that sustainability measures are not just important to make a point about their organisation’s involvement in CSR and sustainability activities. Today, a company can sustain itself in the long run only if it is environmentally and socially responsible. There are various reasons for this — the government has implemented various regulations and policies that force companies to adopt sustainable practices and the costs of non-compliance can be huge.

Consumers too want to be associated with sustainable and environment-friendly brands, so sustainability has become a source of competitive advantage. Organisations can use it to distinguish themselves from their competitors.

Organisational Culture Managers need to integrate sustainability into the objectives and deliverables of each employee. It is important that managers build an organisational culture that nourishes the ideas of sustainable development. Only then will employees feel that sustainability is not a burden. Managers can start with small steps such as the ban on usage of paper cups in office and then slowly incorporate sustainability into their corporate strategy and make it a core value. 

Managers need to help their employees understand that governments in the future are going to force organisations to behave responsibly and thus it would help to start early. Managers can ensure that external stakeholders such as vendors and suppliers also understand the need for sustainability and incorporate environment-friendly practices. The need of the hour is managers who are committed to the cause of sustainability. Finally, if every B-school is able to cultivate such values in their students who become managers in the future, we will be able to solve a lot of environmental and social problems and then maybe one fine day we will not have to worry about the fury of nature or wait for calamity to strike.

(The author is a student of PGP Class of 2014 at the Indian School of Business.)  

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