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Sustainability: From buzzword to business growth opportunity

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Sustainability is far more than a buzzword. It’s a market trend creating opportunities for large and small businesses alike. 

Businesses are rapidly learning that sustainability is a growth opportunity, with far-reaching impact beyond corporate responsibility or reporting requirements. Dynamic large companies are pursuing new sustainable product and service lines across business and consumer markets. In turn, they are increasingly expecting more and different types of support from their suppliers, leading to new business opportunities for small and medium enterprises.  

As a premier manufacturing region in the Great Lakes, Greater Cleveland is home to companies of all sizes developing sustainable products. Take electric vehicles (EVs) as an example. In our region, Ford is investing $1.5 billion in a private-public partnership to produce EVs. Beyond auto manufacturers, local operations are seizing significant market opportunities. 

  • Cleveland-Cliffs is creating lightweight steel for EVs.
  • Goodyear unveiled specialty EV tires, with a goal of producing tires made of 100 percent sustainable materials within the decade.
  • Lincoln Electric and Nidec are developing super-charging infrastructure.
  • Lubrizol is supporting innovative thermal management in EVs.
  • Materion has pioneered lightweight alloys for the EV market.
  • Parker, Eaton and Rockwell are developing consoles, connectors and other key EV components. 
  • Eaton Corp. is connecting the EV ecosystem to drive advancements in technology.
  • Ultium Cells, a joint venture of GM & LG, is producing EV batteries.

In each of these instances, companies are working with small-to-medium enterprises in their supply chains to support these new products. This includes product innovation as well as data reporting, which is increasingly required by large companies.  

Companies that embrace sustainability will have a competitive advantage. Beyond serving new market opportunities and customers, sustainable operations can reduce resource costs, which according to a 2020 McKinsey report, can improve operating profits by up to 60 percent. 

Further, in the still-competitive talent market, embracing sustainability can give companies yet another edge. In 2019, Fast Company reported that more than 70 percent of millennials were more likely to choose to work at a company with a strong environmental focus and nearly 10 percent would take a pay cut to work for a company that values sustainability.

For companies that want to go greener, but find the initial investments a barrier to implementation, there are many available resources, such as Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs to advance clean energy technologies and decarbonization. There are also clean energy and commercial building energy efficiency tax credits available for businesses. Chambers of Commerce and civic organizations can provide connections and information.

With or without public assistance, companies that invest in sustainability are investing in the future of their business — and the world. By doing so, they recognize they are part of a global community pursuing sustainable transformation and growth.

Read the original article by Baiju R. Shah here.

Baiju R. Shah is President & CEO of Greater Cleveland Partnership

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