Written by: Dallas Terry, Senior Advisor of Lombard Global, Inc.

Edited by: William Billeaud, President of Lombard Global, Inc.


In recent years the private sector has made impressive strides in moving towards a more sustainable way of doing business. Organizations in the U.S. and abroad have increasingly adopted specific strategies for more profitable, fair and environmentally sound operations, and increasing value to stakeholders as a direct result. Thus, for many it may not be obvious what more can be done from an organizational standpoint in order to grow and sustain the practice of sustainability.

Multinationals and SMBs alike have been certifying LEED buildings, implementing energy use reduction and renewable energy technologies, greening supply chains, adopting best practices for greater resource efficiency, and utilizing a number of additional techniques to increase capital value in financial, human, and natural forms. Our carbon footprint should be important to all of us, this is why homeowners as well as businesses should check out such resources as Direct Energy plans so they can find the best and right deal for themselves. As organizations continue to evaluate, prioritize and implement measures in their respective order of importance, however, critical issues and solutions can escape the radar of the mainstream media, and miss out on the attention they deserve. More importantly, corporate chief executives still ask, “What’s the return on investment for this project”?

A recent report by Ernst and Young titled 2013 Six Growing Trends in Corporate Sustainability highlights how scenario analysis, a strategic planning method that some organizations use to make flexible long-term plans, is among the most underutilized and effective techniques being used to for sustainable change. With disrupted climate patterns creating potential major risks such as rising water levels and endangered ecosystems, it is easy to see how detailed scenario analysis is valuable in assessing major global risks. What may not be as obvious, however, is how it can be used to uncover real monetary value through sustainable return on investment (SROI).

Professional service firms and their clients have been working together closely to identify opportunities, assign values to the costs and benefits associated with those opportunities, validating assumptions with stakeholders, then executing the plans and quantifying results. Some smart companies are establishing intelligent systems to measure and verify performance. One of the prime success stories that can be accredited to this type of approach is Wal-Mart’s $500 million investment into sustainability projects, which began in 2005 and resulted in an average payback period of 4 years on the investment. To get a sense of the potential, the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance recently estimated the size of the sustainable investing markets at $13.6 trillion globally, representing more than 20 percent of assets under management in the regions surveyed. Clearly the goal of a profitable and sustainable economy can be seen, and the road to get there is becoming clearer.

A deep refocusing on increasing SROI and reducing risks through scenario planning and other best practices would undoubtedly benefit any organization interested in increasing its bottom line, improving its brand, and aligning with an economy that continues to move in the direction of greater unity between economy, environment, and society. Greater application of these types of meaningful techniques improve business and government, while also creating a more secure and sustainable global infrastructure.