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The Next Sustainability Wave (Book Excerpt) (04 Jul 2005)
Stage 1: The company feels no obligation beyond profits. It cuts corners and tries not to get caught if it breaks the law or uses exploitative practices that cheat the system. It ignores sustainability and actively fights against related regulations.

Stage 2: The business manages its liabilities by obeying the law and all labor, environmental, health, and safety regulations. It reactively does what it legally has to do and does it well. Emerging environmental and philanthropic social actions are treated as costs, projects are end-of-pipe retrofits, and CSR is given lip service.

Stage 3: The company moves from defense to offense. It realizes it can save expenses with proactive and incremental operational eco-efficiencies, cleaner processes, and better waste management. It recognizes community investment and social marketing can minimize uncertainty, enhance its reputation, and help maximize shareholder value. However, sustainability initiatives are still marginalized in specialized departments they are tacked on as "green housekeeping," not built in and institutionalized.

Stage 4: The firm transforms itself. It re-brands itself as a company committed to sustainability and integrates sustainability with key business strategies. It captures added value from breakthrough sustainability initiatives that benefit all stakeholders. Instead of costs and risks, it sees investments and opportunities. It makes cleaner products, applies eco-effectiveness and life-cycle stewardship, and enjoys competitive advantages from sustainability initiatives.

Stage 5: Driven by a passionate, values-based commitment to improving the well-being of the company, society, and the environment, the company helps build a better world because it is the right thing to do.
Article URL: http://www.acm.org/ubiquity/book/v6i23_willard.html

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