Race for sustainability.
Curaçao introduces certification
Over the last eight years, the Curaçao Business Council for Sustainable Development has successfully raised awareness, seeing its membership grow from 6 to 60 companies. ‘Now we feel the time is for action,’ says John Amarica, chairman, who emphasizes the importance of adherence to international standards. ‘If we continue to use resources irresponsibly — if we continue to waste food, water and energy — we are not even in the race.”
The evidence is in: companies that invest in sustainability are no worse off financially than those that do not. More than a decade ago a meta-analysis of 52 studies suggested that corporate virtue in the form of social commitment and environmental responsibility is likely to pay off. Since then, new eco-friendly consumer-driven developments have proven to be successful and profitable. Even the simplest of activities, such as philanthropy, can yield financial rewards.
Sustainable businesses create economic value, healthy ecosystems and strong communities. Their employees, customers, and investors are happier and more committed. So, why isn’t every firm jumping on the sustainability bandwagon?
‘It’s not part of the culture in Curaçao to be very pro-active,’ says Amarica. ‘Especially companies that have existed for a long time, and have had the same business model for a long time, they are focused on keeping their old ways, doing things like they have done in the past. But the younger generation, new entrepreneurs, we see a lot of innovation from them.’
The Curaçao Business Council for Sustainable Development has implemented Minimal Sustainability Standards for its members. “They have to reach certain actions and a certain level in a certain time,” Amarica explains. The process is split up into People, Profit and Planet – the Triple Bottom Line, a well-known sustainability concept, which aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of a corporation over a period of time. The goal is to get points in each of the categories, says Amarica: “Some of the efforts are mandatory. For example, you have to have a person within your organization who is in charge with sustainability. And you have to have a policy and conduct a risk inventory and evaluation.’ Many other actions are optional: “Maybe you have 20 options in the category Planet - like recycling plastic, changing to Led lighting, or planting a tree - and for each you get points. If you reach a certain number of points you get a certificate, and we will put you in the spotlight.”
The Curaçao Business Council for Sustainable Development actively encourages its members to implement the new Minimum Sustainability Standards and to become role models for local businesses that want to follow in their footsteps. Amarica: “It’s important and common for companies to have a five year business plan and it should also become mainstream to develop a five year sustainability plan for the future. In addition to CEOs and CFOs, we should introduce CSOs (Chief Sustainability Officers) in companies too.”
‘If your business is not sustainable, you are going to miss out on opportunities and lose work.’
It has been shown over and over, says Amarica, referring to studies from Harvard and Stanford, that companies that are more sustainable are more profitable, more innovative, their employees are happier and they have a better work environment, safer. “It is a total synergistic approach,’ he says, “and it is the way business is done worldwide. If your business is not sustainable, you are going to miss out on opportunities and lose work.”
He mentions the Curacao Dry Dock as an example. “The international shipyard group Damen would not sign an agreement to take over the Curacao Drydock before the company had its ISO 14000 environmental certification. This is not exceptional: many companies worldwide will only do business with companies that are sustainable and can proof it with certifications.”
Amarica sees no downsides to implementing the Minimal Sustainability Standards. “It is a great way to market your company, differentiate yourself within the market. More and more customers are demanding sustainable products, especially tourists – as a tourist destination we have to become sustainable, we have to create the right balance between the expectations of tourists, the needs of the community, businesses, and the natural environment in order to stay competitive and be able to welcome more people to our beloved island. We have to make sustainability our priority, it’s time for action.’
Triple Bottom Line
The phrase ‘the triple bottom line’ was first coined in 1994 by John Elkington, the founder of a British consultancy called SustainAbility. His argument was that companies should be preparing three different bottom lines. One is the traditional measure of corporate profit—the ‘bottom line’ of the profit and loss account. The second is the bottom line of a company's ‘people account’— to define how socially responsible an organization has been throughout its operations. The third is the bottom line of the company's ‘planet’ account—a measure of how environmentally responsible it has been. The triple bottom line (TBL) thus consists of three Ps: Profit, People and Planet. It aims to measure the financial, social and environmental performance of the corporation over a period of time. Only a company that produces a TBL is taking account of the full cost involved in doing business.