Why sustainability is good for business and the planet

Business's role in supporting the global sustainability agenda has gone mainstream since the launch of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.


The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) represents the interests of more than 6 million companies worldwide and is one of Novozymes’ key partners in promoting sustainable business practices.

We ask ICC Chairman Harold (Terry) McGraw III why sustainability is good for business, and how companies will play a key role in achieving the UNSDGs.

Why is it profitable for companies to be sustainable?

Our message is that becoming a sustainability leader requires changes in core business practices, but that the effort to do so is most certainly worth it in economic, environmental and social terms. A corporate culture of sustainability is a source of competitive advantage for companies in the 21st century. Novozymes speaks from a position of great strength as a leader in the industry and is a great example to other companies.

What do the SDGs mean in practical terms for companies in the coming years?

Let’s take climate change, which affects agriculture, shipping, civil-society distribution, and consumerism. Across the board, it’s in business’s self-interest to take action on this agenda. Faced with a real and growing problem, the natural instinct of companies is not to be passive but to take action and find solutions. That’s why, despite prevailing uncertainty about the global direction of climate policy, the green bond market tripled to almost $40 billion in 2014.

Viewed through even the narrowest of commercial lenses, it makes plain business sense to reduce emissions and to build resilience to changing weather patterns. Fortune 100 companies reporting on climate and energy targets are estimated to have made $1.1 billion in savings in 2013 alone.

How will the ICC help global businesses support the sustainability agenda?

It is the ICC’s absolute requirement to follow through on the global goals. In 2015, we launched a new edition of the ICC Business Charter for Sustainable Development, a groundbreaking tool to help companies to develop a business sustainability strategy, regardless of their size, sector or geographical location. Throughout 2016, we’ll be developing further tools to assist companies in implementing the Charter.

A particular focus of our outreach will be the community of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Research shows that many SMEs are unaware of sustainability considerations or see it as an expensive luxury rather than a core business function. By building understanding within the SME community of the long-term commercial benefits of sustainable business practices, we help unleash potential for SMEs to be drivers of a new sustainability revolution.

The interview was first published in the Novozymes Report 2015.