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[2] Myth Busting – Is Sustainability too Expensive?

As per our previous blog, integrating sustainability as a core aspect of project practices can have major benefits, not only in terms of the environment and society, but also for overall performance and effectiveness.

However, despite being aware of these benefits, one of the main concerns for integrating sustainability as a core aspect are the potential costs involved. Contrary to the belief that sustainability initiatives are costly, however, evidence shows that they can lead to significant cost savings.


A study by Nogueira et al. [1] revealed that environmental sustainability practices positively influence organisational performance, for all five performance measures measured against: overall, accounting, market, economic, and operational performance. This reinforces how adopting environmentally sustainability as a core aspect does compromise on financial and economic aspects for operational and social performance. These study results have also been reflected by a few key organisations, which have been able to achieve a win-win situation through their sustainability initiatives.

 

Case Study

Apple Trade In and Sodium-Based Batteries


Let’s take a look at Apple first – through initiatives such as Apple Trade In, Apple has been able to be environmentally friendly and save costs at the same time, by recovering critical materials so they can be recycled and reused in their products. In 2023, 22% of materials shipped in Apple products came from recycled and renewable sources, and 12.8 million devices and accessories were sent to new owners for reuse, clearly denoting the success of this initiative [2]. Not only that, but Apple has also been able to mitigate potential supply chain issues of rare metals through the recycling and reuse initiatives, making this a win-win-win approach.


Similarly, multiple researchers and organisations have investigated sodium-based batteries as an alternative for the lithium batteries that are used today across a range of applications. Their potential for lower costs, improved safety, and reduced environmental impact make them a compelling alternative, but there have been concerns over their technological maturity [3].


Recent research, however, has revealed that they could also have an energy-density and capacity advantage, which when in the context of cars, could give them a longer driving range [4,5], again highlighting a win-win situation through endeavours towards environmentally sustainability. According to Anthony Cortese, owner and founder of Second Nature, “Over the past seven years, DuPont has [also] made investments that have reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 72 percent over 1990 levels. They’ve saved $2 billion.” [6], reiterating the potential cost savings of integrating environmental sustainability as a core aspect.

 

Conclusion


While integrating sustainability can have some upfront costs involved, it is clear that the common belief that sustainability is expensive and not cost-effective is a complete myth and that when undertaking a cost-benefit analysis, even the upfront costs can be a worthwhile investment for organisations in the future.


Want to integrate sustainability as a core aspect of your projects but not sure how? We at PMLogic, as a certified B corp, can support you holistically with becoming more sustainable.


References


[1] Nogueira, E., Gomes, S. and Lopes, J.M. (2023) ‘A meta-regression analysis of environmental sustainability practices and firm performance’, Journal of Cleaner Production, 426, p. 139048. doi:10.1016/j.jclepro.2023.139048.


[2] Environment (2024) Apple (Australia). Available at: https://www.apple.com/au/environment/ 


[3] Hagan, A. (2024) Sodium-ion batteries: Can table salt feed our renewable energy needs?, Qurator. Available at: https://www.qurator.com/blog/sodium-ion-batteries-can-table-salt-feed-our-renewable-energy-needs 


[4] Patel, P. (2024) For sustainable batteries, just add a pinch of salt, IEEE Spectrum. Available at: https://spectrum.ieee.org/lithium-ion-battery-2665763170 


[5] Elton, C. (2022) Sea salt batteries could be a cheap, green alternative to lithium, Euronews. Available at: https://www.euronews.com/green/2022/12/13/significant-breakthrough-this-new-sea-salt-battery-has-4-times-the-capacity-of-lithium 


[6] Lemonick, M.D. (2009) ‘Top 10 myths about sustainability’, Scientific American, 19(1), pp. 40–45. doi:10.1038/scientificamericanearth0309-40.

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