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What is the Economic Impact of Sustainability to Business?

February 15, 2024

Study Indicates Significance of Sustainable Technologies in SC

In a world where the customer is king, 73% of global consumers say they are willing to change consumption habits to lessen their impact on the environment. So what does that mean for businesses in South Carolina? Sustain SC sought to answer that question with a 2023 study on the Economic Impact of Sustainability, conducted by Dr. Joey Von Nessen with the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business.

Dr. Von Nessen presented his findings during a January 2024 webinar, noting that access to sustainable technologies is key to long term sustained revenue growth.

Study finding highlights:

  • Approximately 46 percent of survey respondents indicate that their revenue projections over the next decade would be negatively impacted without sufficient access to sustainable technologies.
  • The top technology needs include:
    • Landfill and/or Organic Waste Innovations (i.e. the circular economy)
    • Electric Vehicle Infrastructure
    • Battery Storage Innovations
  • Which clean energy sources do companies want access to? Solar leads the way, followed by renewable natural gas, wind, hydrogen, nuclear and geothermal.
  • Companies of all sizes report sustainability as an important element; it’s not just a focus for large and multinational firms.
  • 6.8 percent of surveyed firms are “very likely” to relocate out of South Carolina if they are unable to meet their sustainable technology requirements. Others indicated they would not necessarily remove existing operations, though they could choose to grow in other markets.
  • A lack of sustainable technologies could generate losses of between $30.2 billion and $101.2 billion in total economic activity for South Carolina over the next decade.

What does sustainability look like in Upstate SC?

During the webinar, Upstate SC Alliance’s President & CEO John Lummus spoke about the importance of sustainability as a pillar of economic development. Several key initiatives are influencing sustainability in Upstate SC:

  • Collaborative agency responses, such as:
    • Sustain SC advancing “commerce + conversation” through proactive partnerships.
    • The SC Recycling Markets Directory connecting waste producers with waste recyclers.
    • SC Nexus and PowerSC uniting partners to plan for our future power needs.
    • Transportation + Preservation initiatives such as the SC Ports Authority’s goal to have the “greenest port in the Southeast” and benefits of the Inland Port Greer to reduce carbon emissions.
  • Corporate sustainability initiatives, such as:
    • Milliken & Company has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2050 and is a member of the Alliance to End Plastic Waste, researching plastic waste solutions. They are also the first U.S. company to successfully eliminate PFAS (per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances) from their textile fibers and finished portfolio.
    • BMW uses landfill methane gas to supplement its Spartanburg operations, providing about 20% of the plant’s electricity needs. Launched in 2001, this program is equivalent to eliminating 23.5 million miles of vehicle output per year.
    • Greenville’s Bubble Paper produces biodegradable bubble wrap as a packaging alternative.

View the complete sustainability report here

TOPICS: Business, Existing Industry, sustainability