By Diane O’Connor, vice president, Global Environment, Health, Safety & Sustainability

This is why your company should push its Corporate Social Responsibility agenda forward: “By 2030 humanity will need the capacity of two Earths to absorb CO2 waste and keep up with natural resource consumption.”

That’s from the World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Report 2010. “In order to secure the future in all its complexity for generations to come,” the report noted, “governments, businesses and individuals urgently need to translate these facts and figures into actions and policies — as well as anticipate both future opportunities and obstacles in the path to sustainability.”

What’s next? I propose five ideas that will make a positive impact on Corporate Social Responsibility:

Xerox’s annual Report on Global Citizenship

Xerox’s annual Report on Global Citizenship summarizes our progress toward a sustainable enterprise. I invite you to take a look at some of our accomplishments.

Use Your Company’s Quality Improvement Process

What gets measured gets done. More importantly, a quantitative approach allows you to prioritize your resources and efforts.  It is also a means to validate success and the environmental sustainability claims.

Get Your Suppliers Involved

Your decisions will have ripple effects, so your sustainability efforts must include your entire supply chain, from beginning to end. Without this value chain view, you run the risk of sub-optimization because you looked only within your own “four walls.”

Look for Credible Partners

In addition to your suppliers, work with other companies, trade organizations, government agencies or universities in the areas where you do business. This is too big to take on alone.

Keep an Eye on Costs

“Greener” at any cost is not sustainable in the long run, so your efforts must be economically based. The good news is when you remove process inefficiencies, such as certain environmental impacts, you reduce your costs. Concentrate your efforts on things that are material to the growth of your company, and the sustainable development of the world

Communicate, Communicate, Communicate

Good communication of wins will fuel your sustainability efforts, and inspire the people who are closest to where the opportunities exist. It also allows you to share best practices and enhance the perception that your performance deserves.

Are we too late? I don’t think so, and neither does WWF Director General Jim Leape, who noted in the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2012:

“We can create a prosperous future that provides food, water and energy for the 9 or perhaps 10 billion people who will be sharing the planet in 2050 … we all need to play a role in keeping this a living planet – with food, water and energy for all, and the vibrant ecosystems that sustain life on Earth.”

From the editor: Diane O’Connor joins sustainability consultant Susan McPherson and Beyond Business founder Elaine Cohen with more advice on how companies can set forth a CSR strategy that works for them. Read “5 Ways Your Company Can Be More Socially Responsible” on Real Business.

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