I very much like the article by Daniel Altman and Jonathan Berman, "The Single Bottom Line."  Companies that think about long term profitability - i.e., being sustainable beyond just the next quarter - should make rational decisions that would now be categorized as "Corporate Social Responsibility" or "Sustainable" solely on the basis of whether or not such "do good" actions will enhance the traditional bottom line long term.  I think that's why we see some fairly old line companies leading the way on sustainability and CSR - 3M, P&G, Johnson& Johnson, Unilever, GE.  Their culture is to think for the long term with the expectation that they'll be around in another century. Thus, they view investment in community and the environment to be in their long term interests and are rewarded by loyal employees, investors and customers.

Of course, the reverse is true.  Companies that are picking the low hanging fruit of random sustainability "projects" and viewing CSR as a PR game are the ones who are after the quick bump, thinking only in the short term and aren't likely to become a long-lived enterprise.  CEOs, employees and investors will turn over rapidly.

Even those who are altruistic and ignore profits will also fade away.  They forget the economic leg of sustainability. They've got to make money to stay around.

I did a poster awhile back contrasting the cultures of companies who "get" sustainability.  A culture of long term thinking is central to sustainable profit.

If all companies would think about the long term consequences (risks and opportunities) of what they do, we'd be well on the path of sustainability.

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