Bob Gottfried is the Founder of ACE Clinics in Toronto, Ontario.

Transforming Standards Into Opportunity: How Compliance Can Become So Much More

Sustainability ComplianceWhen it comes to the private sector, companies are as diverse and varied as the people who make them up. This extends to their understanding of the importance of centering sustainability as a corporate value. For-profit organizations often err in favor the bottom line above all else, failing to recognize the long-term benefit (and, frankly, the necessity) of altering behavior to reflect the growing body of information about how the way in which we consume resources and produce goods is leading us towards disastrous consequences on a global scale. The immediate satisfaction of a slightly larger profit margin today can, frankly, be blinding to the smartest strategies for tomorrow.

Fortunately, many government authorities have been much faster to adapt, driven by the urgent calls for change from their constituencies. As a result, the first step many companies take on the road to a sustainable future is motivated by new legislation. Complying with these changes in law, however, can prove surprisingly complicated. Environmental standards often vary dramatically from place to place, as different communities and public bodies embrace climate change realities at different paces. On top of intensifying regulation, companies also often face pressure from voluntary codes. Great examples of these are the Greenhouse Gas Protocol or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, which essentially strongly encourage behaviors that exceed the bar set by law, yet with which enterprises must comply to remain competitive in their markets.

Adhering to the highest possible standard has proven to be the wisest course of action for businesses time and again. The science is out and any semblance of a valid debate regarding climate change no longer exists. The trend of policy to simply continue intensifying over time is already visible. Therefore, first-mover advantage belongs to the companies who are most capable of fostering innovation and eschewing the easy money now (by catering to the lowest environmental standards while they last) in favor of industry leadership in the long run. The more rapidly enterprises begin adapting, the more time they allow themselves to experience with greener technologies. It is simply a matter of embracing the appropriate scale of perspective. The norms that are emerging today will certainly be the laws of the future. STaying ahead of the curve by picking the highest possible standard save themselves money in the long run, as they accomplish feats like optimizing supply chain operations and then benefit from economies of scale while competitors are forced to revisit and rework their processes time after time. And, in the process, regulators truly become sources of innovation. An excellent side benefit exists beyond better working relationships with governments and regulating bodies – an improved reputation with consumers, who recognize that companies who are willing to earn their respect tend to deserve their dollars.