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As I was entered the Bella Center (Venue of COP15) today, I noticed a small poster saying “Obama – Win it at Oslo, Earn it at COP15!” This simple and elegant message sends across a variety of signals. We all have read the controversial stories which were floating around, when Barrack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize this year. Though we can argue over his win for days, the point is that now is the time to show step up and get a FAB (fair, ambitious and binding) deal in Copenhagen.

As the negotiations move forward at an extremely slow pace in COP15, the ministerial talks have already begun and most heads of states have arrived. Next week is going to be very crucial in terms of decisions on KP (Kyoto Protocol), Finance (Funds for the developing countries to mitigate emissions and adapt to climate change) and other issues. On one hand, the AOSIS (Alliance of Small Islands States), for whom survival is at stake, are pushing for legally binding commitments and on the other side, the developed countries (particularly Australia and Canada and ofcourse, the US) want to do away with KP.

The G77+China group (a loose coalition of 130 developing nations) has had internal issues this week and there have been rumours of a split between the BASIC countries (Brazil, India, China and South Africa) and the remaining members. With the first week coming to an end, the Bella Center has become a hotbed of politics and media, NGOs and the youth are trying to understand to figure out the dynamics of who’s dating whom!

As everyone awaits the visit of Obama on December 18th in Copenhagen, we are hoping that countries would be able to come to a fair deal by then and that the President of the United States would do justice to the climate, the Nobel, the people who elected him and the world!

In a recent edition in the Harvard Business Review, Ram NiduMolu (Founder and CEO of InnovaStrat), C.K. Prahalad (Paul and Ruth McCracken Distinguished University Professor of Strategy at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business ) and M.R. Rangaswami (Founder of the Corporate Eco Forum and the co-founder of the Sand Hill Group) wrote an article on “Why Sustainability is Now the Key Driver of Innovation”. The article talks about how, being eco-friendly and sustainable, lowers costs and drives innovation. It goes on to say that in the future, only companies which make sustainability a goal will achieve competitive advantage, which means that rethinking business models as well as products, technologies and processes is the need of the hour.

As I was reading the article, I realized how emerging companies, both in developed and developing economies can use “the five steps to sustainability” mentioned in the article and lower costs from day 1. The article takes several organizations and describes how they were able to drive innovation, gain competitive advantage and cut down costs by adhering to gold standards for sustainability. Talking about supply chains, it says how responding to people’s concerns about destruction of rain forests and wetlands, MNCs such as Cargill and Unilever have invested in technology development and worked with farmers to develop sustainable practices in the cultivation of palm oil, soybeans, cacao and other agricultural commodities, which in turn has improved crop yields and seed production.

Companies like FedEx, which consumes 4 million gallons of fuel every day, are also becoming eco-friendly and working on new methods to save fuel. Following a lot of pioneers, FedEx has recently converted its energy-saving expertise into a stand alone consulting business which it hopes will become a profit center. “Work from home” is another key policy which is saving costs and increasing employee satisfaction.

By creating environment-friendly value chains, companies are linking sustainability initiatives to business results. Designing sustainable products and services, developing new business models and creating next-practice platforms for the future are key steps towards sustainability. Amidst all this, the lesson to learn for both SMEs and start-ups is to start looking at sustainability as a key driver of innovation and pave the path for a cleaner future!