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The constant struggle between business’ social and environmental responsibility and investor demands is already an old tale. “The field has stretched and magnified so quickly that even though I have only been doing this work for three years, it feels like 10,” confessed a fellow attendee at a recent conference.

It’s true. Increasingly, more of us – those of us who eat, drink, sleep and dream CSR and sustainability – succumb to the comfort of believing that the sector is steadily progressing toward safer, clearer, more transparent practices.

But are we?

With Wall Street continuing to demand quarterly results, stringent returns on investments and short payback periods, are we really supporting sustainability in its truest sense? The examples, after all, are endless: Apple’s factory standards, Goldman Sachs’ unethical business practices, Chevron’s continued governance malpractices as reported by the Amazon Defense Coalition, and a new report that calls Wal-Mart’s sustainability championship as mere greenwashing.

As the CECP’s Margaret Coady remarked recently on CSRwire Talkback, how can sustainability executives tie consumer expectations and investor pressure into cohesive strings of action? Are the two sides completely incompatible?

Bob_Willard_The_Sustainability_AdvantageBob Willard, author of The Sustainability Advantage – and the updated The New Sustainability Advantage – recently held a well-attended webinar organized by the Toronto Speaker Sustainability Series [TSSS] on objections handling for sustainability executives. Some of his lessons – which you will soon be able to download as a useful reference guide, courtesy TSSS – focus on identifying mind shifts, behavioral change, graciousness and emphasizing education.

Now, Willard is traveling to New York to present at the Ethical Sourcing Forum on March 29 – 30, 2012 on connecting these lamentations with the business case for sustainability. A former IBMer, Willard’s work is renowned for its articulate arguments and concrete examples. His book is a firestorm of information and data. Here’s what the founder of Interface, the late Ray Anderson, said:

Bob Willard has performed a service of inestimable value: quantifying the business case for sustainability. By focusing at the level of the firm, Willard has bypassed the overriding but somewhat esoteric question, “How long can the rape of Earth by the modern industrial system go on before ecological collapse?”

The answer to this big question lies in the cumulative effect of millions of firms, large and small, waking up to the untapped profit potential that’s all around them. Bob Willard has shown how to capture that potential in real profits. Consequently, the answer to the big question is: Let the rape stop now; there’s a better way to make a bigger profit. Read this book to learn how.

Willard believes that until recently, there has been little evidence expressed in business language to show executives actual benefits from sustainability strategies. But that sustainability strategies can drive new bottom-line opportunities, avoid impending risks, and be a catalyst for business innovation, even in an economic recession.

While there are speakers aplenty who can talk about sustainability today in logically constructed sentences, there are few who have decades of experience to back up their arguments and can not only envision sustainable capitalism but show us how to get there. Willard falls in the latter category. So, if you are in the New York City area, join the CSRwire team at the Ethical Sourcing Forum to learn and engage with the leader himself.

Originally written for and published on CSRwire’s Commentary sectionTalkback on March 16, 2012.

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