Companies in a wide range of industries are using sustainability as a springboard to growth, often doing so by working across industries as GreenBiz Group's VERGE conference recently demonstrated. I've written on GreenBiz.com about the three main strategies companies are taking to innovate and grow with sustainability as a primary driver.
While companies develop and execute comprehensive sustainability strategies with a range of stakeholders and business partners across their ecosystem and even across industries, the success of sustainability-driven revenue growth strategies ultimately depends on how well a company serves the needs of end markets and specific customers. Looking deep within an industry, in addition to across them, underlines how large and important the sustainability innovation and growth opportunity has become.
My work recently with the executive team of a multibillion-dollar client in the communications and high-tech industry brought this point home. This company manufactures hundreds of products from facilities in over 20 countries across the world. They win business and make money based on how well they procure components, run their supply chain, and operate their facilities.
Certainly any company with this range and complexity of operation would be highly focused on the environmental and social responsibility and the cost effectiveness of their business, and indeed this client is. But, in the midst of the global focus on sustainability, they wanted to determine what competencies they had and needed to be able to innovate and grow new businesses in markets driven by sustainability including those for solar panels, residential meters, power distribution, and water desalinization kits.
Look deeper into the communications and high-tech industry. Much has been written about how software will play an important role in monitoring environmental performance -- an estimated $12 billion market this year with some of the world's and industry's leading companies like IBM, HP and SAP actively competing for it. But, sustainability is playing a much larger, even pivotal role in remaking the competitive fundamentals, business models, and direction and growth of the industry itself. A snapshot of activity in three major sectors provides a compelling illustration of the industry-wide growth opportunity provided by sustainability.
• High-tech equipment and services -- Cloud computing is fundamentally shifting the way enterprises use communications and high-tech products and services. Enterprises are embracing "the cloud" to reduce capital and operating expenditures. Of course, one of the biggest operating expenditures in a data center is the cost of energy. The use of virtualization software (central to the operating effectiveness of servers in data centers) from the leading provider (VMware) saves more power than the amount of electricity used annually for heating, ventilation and air conditioning across all of New England. Further, the energy efficiency of computing and network equipment has improved by 70 percent to 90 percent in recent years. "Cloud" is the competitive game changer and a big growth opportunity that every major player in this industry is working on and sustainability is a fundamental reason for its emergence.