At the heels of the United Nation’s groundbreaking report detailing the necessity for “unprecedented changes in the next decade” to avoid permanent damage to the Earth’s environment, sustainability and waste management in the business world, and beyond, have become essential factors of commerce across the globe.  The concept of creating products and services that are sustainable in the long-run is integrating itself as a key driver of companies’ operations and value chains, and innovation is necessary to achieve substantial results.  While efforts to keep our planet living intensify, so too will the call for businesses to operate environmentally safe processes.

Simply put, business sustainability is “the management and coordination of environmental, social, and financial demands and concerns to ensure responsible, ethical, and ongoing success.”  Furthermore, the idea of satisfying the “three pillars of sustainability”, or “triple bottom line,” of social, environmental, and economic emphasis has taken hold in many firms.  Three exemplary corporations that have been ranked as Forbes’ 2018 most sustainable companies in the world in 2018 are France's Dassault Systemes with a sustainability score of 86.1 percent, Finland’s Neste with a sustainability score of 85.2 percent, and France’s Valeo with a score of 83.6 percent.  Sustainability scores consider items like energy use, waste, clean air production, as well as the diversity of leadership, innovation, and safety ratings to determine how beneficial a company is to the environment around it.  Overall, France and the U.S. house five businesses in the top 25, and four of the top 25 firms deal with pharmaceutical products.

In terms of overall sustainability around the world, Scandinavian countries are leading the charge to eliminate waste and adopt greener policies in society.  In order, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden represent the top four most environmentally-friendly countries with environmental performance index (EPI) scores of 90.68, 90.51, and 90.43.  On the other hand, the most polluted countries are Pakistan, Qatar, and AfghanistanQatar also emits the most CO2 in the world, while Denmark emits the least CO2.

Without a doubt, the implementation of waste management and sustainability into business and its value chains has direct impacts on trade and the environment in our society.  McKinsey and Company identified over 150 possible improvements that could reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a major brewery that would save the company 200 million dollars.  It also found that benchmarking energy and utility costs has the potential to reduce operating costs by 25 percent.  All of this yields a higher return on investment for firms and reduces the number of input costs incurred over the year.  These factors allow companies to charge more competitive prices than their rivals while at the same time boosting their brand name and standing within the industry.  According to the Harvard Business Review, integrating sustainability into a business consists of five key steps: Viewing Compliance as an Opportunity; Making Value Chains Sustainable through supply chains, operations, workplaces, and returns; Designing Sustainable Products and Services; Developing New Business Models; and Creating Next-Practice Platforms.

Ultimately, sustainability and waste management figure to play essential roles in how business and society is conducted in years to come.  Whether in North America, Europe, or Asia, implementing sustainable and environmentally-healthy practices into businesses’ value chains is a necessary step to not only improve the world around us but also create a more efficient model of trade.  With several countries such as Finland and Denmark are already leading the effort to improve, many others still need to follow suit in order to achieve the result of a better planet and the impact of whether or not sustainability measures are adopted will be on display in the next decade.  

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