The days are gone when business can create shareholder value in a vacuum. Today, the need to better align with the values of society, and the need to continuously reduce environmental impacts both at the manufacturing site and in the use and disposal of products, are increasingly critical to the right to operate and the right to grow. This paper begins with a discussion of several of the macro-trends shaping the business environment to make this the case.

Aligning shareholder value creation with societal values must go beyond the thought that "if the customer buys," there must be societal value. The newer and more powerful thought is that this alignment will create market opportunities and growth. This paper provides a "sustainability strategy guide" that can be used to evaluate current business offerings and shape future direction.

Moving from sustainable growth as a concept to sustainable growth as an integrated part of all business strategies and actions takes a comprehensive and robust managing system. This paper demonstrates that "safety" is a powerful model to do this. The progression from safety as a core value to safety as both a source of value and as a managing system for sustainable growth is shown using the "safety-sustainability" continuum and the "full integration" model.

At the June 2003 ASSE Conference, examples from DuPont and other companies will be used to illustrate the concepts in this paper.

Macro-Trends Shaping The Business Environment Today

Societal and environmental conditions have always had an influence on markets. Historically, this influence has been periodic in most industries and particularly important in industries involving natural resource extraction or heavy environmental impact. Still, many corporate strategists are not used to thinking about societal and environmental conditions as explicit market forces.

A set of contemporary trends has greatly magnified the degree to which environmental and societal conditions affect markets. These trends are familiar.

Trends that magnify the market impact of social and environmental conditions:

  • increasing power of NGOs and civil society;

  • globalization, broadly defined;

  • connectedness - customers, NGOs, public;

  • changing role of government;

  • the increasing influence of market forces and power of corporations; and,

  • acceptance of sustainability as a priority.

The increasing number, credibility and power of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are one of the lesser-told stories of the last few decades. The chart below depicts this rise.

Exhibit 1. NGOs are a Growing Force in Civil Society (available in full paper)

Increased globalization has become one of the most-used cliches in business. Here, we mean not only trade liberalization, but also globalization in the scope of businesses and the sharing of media and other communications around the world.

If globalization has become a cliche, then so too is the connectedness that comes from being linked by low-cost means of global interaction such as the Internet and email. Here, we note the degree to which this has facilitated like-minded people around the globe to come together to express themselves on societal and environmental issues as customers, investors, activists and members of the body politic.

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