Why We Must Cultivate A Culture Of Sustainable Development In Regulated Cannabis
The regulated cannabis industry has a tremendous opportunity to establish a paradigm for sustainable development and corporate social responsibility. Sustainable development — which I have long been invested and involved in personally, professionally and academically — can help the cannabis industry achieve a strong triple bottom line and increase social equality, economic development and ecological health within our communities. Sustainability professionals have spent decades working to shift the focus from a short-term corporate agenda for profit, profit, profit to a long-term value-driven agenda for people, profit and planet. The value pitch for this transition is that organizations can achieve and maintain the greatest value for each of the three (people, profit or planet) by leveraging all three together. This concept has the potential to become the value backbone for real estate and property development in regulated cannabis.
Sustainable development in real estate and building operations has been building momentum. Corporate giants such as Walmart, Walgreens and Ocean Spray have made intentional commitments to increase investments in sustainable development initiatives. My company is a member of the The Sustainability Consortium, and I heard about these commitments at its 10-Year Anniversary Summit in Chicago, where fellow members presented advancements toward creating a culture of sustainable development for their respective organizations and larger market sectors. Among the corporate initiatives, the one I am perhaps most impressed by is the Gigaton Project, in which Walmart and its suppliers aim to "cut more than 1 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions out of their operations by 2030" with significant capital investments in real estate development and building operations.
The regulated cannabis industry has an opportunity to leverage this momentum with a grassroots strategy, something that has been extremely effective for regulated cannabis as our industry continues to legalize on a state-by-state and community-by-community basis. These grassroots efforts have created significant business opportunities for real estate professionals and property developers. In many instances, regulated cannabis developments that have included sustainable development strategies such as renewable energy, energy efficiency and community-based philanthropy have been able to achieve increased community and regulatory support for project proposals and development. This is a trend developers must continue to embrace as the industry grows and expands into new territory.
It is difficult to ignore the value-driven overlap between sustainable development and regulated cannabis. Initial commitments to sustainable development practices have been highlighted by corporate social responsibility programs implemented by cannabis giants such as Aurora Cannabis and Canopy Growth, both of which have established executive positions committed to advancing sustainable development. Other cannabis companies, including Kush Co. and Grodan, have made commitments to produce environmentally friendly products, although that approach has not been without its own set of challenges. Addressing and tackling these challenges successfully may allow these companies and those that follow their lead to reap the market rewards as consumers continue to demand sustainable products.
The bottom line? The global regulated cannabis industry was estimated to have a $344 billion consumer market value in 2018, and many believe that market value will grow above a trillion over the next few decades globally. When this kind of money gets involved in an industry, there is both an opportunity and a responsibility to establish practices and policies that can improve the economy, ecology and equity within our communities. Industry professionals have a real chance to leverage sustainable development strategies to increase value and mitigate risk within an industry that has been facing an uphill battle for far too long.