3 Questions Featured

7:00pm EDT January 26, 2009

Aili Jokela is the senior vice president, senior partner and general manager of Fleishman-Hillard, and the co-chair of the company’s Sustainability Practice Group. Fleishman-Hillard, an international public relations firm, initiated the Sustainability Practice Group to address sustainability needs, such as green product and service marketing to corporate climate response. Her technical expertise is in the areas of strategic energy management and energy efficiency.

How can investing in sustainability improve a company’s bottom line?

Sustainability helps a company’s social marketing and industrial energy efficiency while promoting corporate responsibility. The percentage of the benefit will vary in different industries, but there are big benefits to be had. Sustainability allows businesses to streamline costs more efficiently while taking waste out of the consumer stream and creating a better P&L statement for the company. Companies educating themselves on sustainable practices today will be able to anticipate potential regulation and ultimately have a better seat at the table. Sustainable companies will also develop a leadership position and be part of shaping their outcomes.

What will it take for businesses to increase interest in being more sustainable?

Regulation and incentives speed up the process, but otherwise it takes time to get everyone on board. A good example of this is the automobile industry. When safety regulation discussions started gaining momentum, the industry fought it, but then they adapted to the new standard. Now, car manufacturers use their vehicles’ safety features as a marketing angle.

Why should companies still investigate and invest in sustainability now that the economy is in a downswing?

The world’s current economic and environmental situation demands that companies operate sustainably. Companies need to know they can put sustainability methods into place and not break the bank. In the future, it will continue to cost companies more not operating efficiently. Even though money may be tight, sustainable practices help companies retain their market share and diversify themselves from competitors in tough times. Companies that are educating themselves on the matter are positioning themselves effectively for when the economy starts to grow again. Having less money than you’re accustomed to makes you become smart about things quickly — and that’s what’s happening now.