"Sustainability" is a major buzzword on the minds of just about everyone in business today. Financiers want to invest in companies that are sustainable, and employees want to work for them. In the marketplace, customers in both the B2B and B2C sectors want to get involved with organizations that pride themselves on being sustainable.
Everyone agrees on this idea in theory, but in practice it becomes a little bit difficult to nail down precisely. What does it mean, really, for a company to be sustainable? Part of it involves handling operations in an eco-friendly manner, and another part involves eliminating waste both financially and in terms of physical assets.
"What does it mean, really, for a company to be sustainable?"
This is all very vague, though, and by this logic, any company can potentially trumpet its sustainability measures if it uses the right data and frames it effectively. Around the world, we're all still working to get a better handle on who's performing best when it comes to sustainable practices.
Seeking "some semblance of order"
There's been a great deal of debate recently among business leaders about what constitutes sustainability. According to The Wall Street Journal, the term has many varying definitions, and sometimes they clash.
For example, Sustainable Insight Capital Management tries to maintain a database of environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) ratings for all companies – but last year, a large industrial company was noted as a top 10 ESG performer by one data provider and a bottom 10 ESG performer by another. Obviously, there are inconsistencies that need to be worked out.
"We don't believe there's one definition of sustainability or materiality," Michael Jantzi, chief executive of Sustainalytics, told the Journal. "While I think we need to bring some semblance of order, because I understand it's confusing, I also believe there's strength in the diversity of opinions."
That diversity makes it difficult for business leaders to make key decisions.
Measuring sustainability with clear data
One reason sustainability is such a hot topic is that investors use it to make key decisions about their future business ventures. Currently, though, there are such wild discrepancies in sustainability data that it's tough for anyone to act with confidence.
Janine Guillot, director of capital markets policy and outreach at the nonprofit Sustainability Accounting Standards Board, told the WSJ that some uniformity would be a welcome change.
"We want companies to report a baseline set of metrics so that you can then compare performance across companies on those metrics," Guillot said. "Our role is to ensure that any investor, regardless of strategy, has access to quality, reliable data."
Specific data points are tough to come by. It would help if investors knew where to look.
Good water heating presents tangible gains
For investors who are looking for tangible proof of companies' sustainability, one possible indicator is a business' approach to water heating. This is an area where there are solid, reliable numbers to prove the improvements that organizations are making. How much water are they using? How much have they reduced per-capita consumption? These are questions with tangible answers.
The U.S. Department of Energy noted that when choosing a water heating infrastructure, it's important to consider a range of factors including size, efficiency and cost. If any organization can optimize in all three of these areas, there's a good chance that it's on the right track where sustainability is concerned. For your money, the best way to maximize heating efficiency is to invest today in a commercial tankless water heater that can add considerably to the sustainability of your business.