By 2013, we may need two planets to sustain our demand for resources on Earth. At the risk of being repetitive: climate change is real. The level of urgency is rising to the point where it is not only unacceptable, but also increasingly unwise for businesses to ignore the issue. Businesses are being called upon to move faster and more significantly, so much so that boldness is becoming a competitive capital.
Where Things Are Headed
At the Unilever annual general meeting in 2010, CEO Paul Polman had this to say on the topic, “We are living beyond the limits of the world’s resources…it is not sustainable…by 2020 we aim to halve the environmental footprint of our products, source 100 percent of agricultural raw materials sustainably, help a billion take action to improve their health and well-being. It’s the right thing to do, but it’s also good for business.”
And here is the brilliant part, “In the context of building our business for the long-term, we have chosen to abandon guidance to the market…” Polman essentially informed short-term investors to look elsewhere, giving both humanity and the health of the world a higher priority in their business model. These statements came with few market repercussions, and analysts continue to recommend Unilever as a strong buy. Other giants, such as Wal-Mart, are also making big moves in the direction of sustainability. This will raise the bar for everyone, and coffee companies with sustainability activities could soon find their efforts dwarfed.