Dean Fischer talks about how West Monroe Partners has grown our sustainability practice, and what we're seeing in for this burgeoning market.

To our clients and friends

I have been writing messages for West Monroe Partners’ newsletters for almost eight years now. That’s more than 30 updates for our clients and friends. I enjoy getting feedback, and occasionally I do—but never have I had the type of response that I received to my 2010 year-end letter on the topic of sustainability. From the volume as well as nature of the replies, it is clear this topic struck a chord with people across all facets of business.

All along, I have believed that conservation and sustainability are “right” from a social standpoint, but it hasn’t always been clear what the economic case for doing something really is. More and more recently, studies are beginning to show that sustainable business and operating practices can have a real, measureable positive impact on financial performance, environmental performance and deeper social organizational value—in fact, creating a “triple bottom line.” It is this unique intersection of value that is prompting many executives to take a fresh look at sustainable practices (not to mention that it is inevitable that the United States will soon be following the European lead of regulatory reform in this case).

One of the questions I get most frequently is, “where do I start”? Sustainability, unlike many things in business, has tentacles into so many facets of corporate existence: pollution and waste, energy and other resource consumption, product design, community development, logistics, sourcing, and packaging, to name just a few. As it is when tackling any other business challenge, a good place to start is with the proverbial “low-hanging fruit,” the areas where it is easiest to make an immediate impact and, more importantly, gain some traction for broader, company-wide efforts. These quick wins will obviously differ from organization to organization, but one area in the spotlight for many today is transportation.

Because it has significant implications for both societal (fuel consumption and pollution) and financial performance, transportation is a prime example of an issue at the intersection. With the price of oil headed up and the cost of a gallon of gas moving towards $5, some companies have literally seen their transportation costs double in the past two years—prompting many to rethink their strategies. West Monroe experts have researched and written an article on some evolving transportation challenges and steps that companies can take to begin addressing the cost issues at hand, with an eye also on the broader social benefits.

West Monroe’s work has become more and more rooted in sustainability over the last several years, including our leadership on Smart Grid infrastructure, our recent work with the City of Chicago’s Climate Action Plan, and our focus on Sustainable Supply Chains and Environmental Management Systems. Because many of you have expressed additional interest in sustainability, we held a sustainability webinar on April 21st to provide leadership perspectives on sustainability. Our initial webinar topic will focus on an emerging new standard for measuring sustainability - ULE 880 - Sustainability for Manufacturing Organizations.

In the meantime, we welcome your feedback and ideas for stimulating discussions around sustainability—or any other concerns on your mind.

These days, it seems like everyone wants to talk about rising transportation costs—and the alternatives for reducing and managing them. This is one of several evolving transportation challenges facing companies today, forcing many to rethink their transportation strategies—strategies that likely were expensive and time-consuming to establish in the first place.