As consumers, our knowledge of the importance of using sustainable alternatives is greater than ever before. We wholly rely on this planet’s natural resources for everyday survival. It is now that businesses and communities need the guarantee to have continued access to water, materials and resources to continue human and environmental health.
It is assumed in business that adding sustainability practices into a company’s core businesses plan is very expensive; and that the costs out ways the benefits. Contrary to popular belief, the opposite is true.
According to the Harvard Business Review, embedded sustainable efforts into the core of a business results in a positive impact on business performance. “A company with a sustainability agenda is better positioned to anticipate and react to economic, social, environmental and regulatory changes as they arise”.
Do it with a purpose
Adding sustainable practice into your business strategy can feel overwhelming or unreachable goal. The key to planning is to do it with purpose. This includes distribution responsibility, holding accountability and measuring results.
To get 'real' results your businesses and employees needs a genuine connection to your companies’ goals. A false or ‘skin deep’ approach to sustainability will be received as deception. We have all seen companies come under fire for ecological deception or ‘Greenwashing’. Consumers are intelligent against ‘greenwashing’. A half-baked sustainable strategy will alienate your customers and damage your reputation.
Your plan needs to be relevant to customers and employees alike. Is your strategy relevant? Is your plan short term or long term?
Looking at images and articles can highlight the damage done. However, it will not inspire a business to become sustainable. Try taking it back to the research. How has/will climate change affect your business and the people connected to it? How does your business affect climate change? Can you guarantee supplies all year?
Reactive and Proactive
A business will rise or fall on its relationships with its stakeholders. Unlike traditional business models, 'sustainable businesses' are defined by the corporate ecosystem as having models that focus on the creative value for all stakeholders.
This is called “Creative Share Value”. The argument is that brands that can generate economic value by identifying and addressing social problems within their benefit from the content communicating with shareholders. We close communication brands are more likely to learn about issues sooner. Facing issues faster and more effectively.
Commination is essential to a successful partnership. Invest time into educating customers, employees, and relevant parties not only sustainability but why your business cares. Transparency is key to building trust and understanding. Be open with struggles, plans and solutions the community around you can help. You never know, a team member might have the answer.
An open environment in a company will lead to high-value communication with all stakeholders. According to Guide Natura’s Sustainable Engagement diagram, there are three ‘pillars’ to consider.
Social Sustainability – (goal) a good life and a good environment
Economic Sustainability – (means) a good economy where businesses can grow
Ecological Sustainability – (conditions) everything we do within the ecological limits
These three pillars cover all viewpoints (or motivations) for sustainability. By considering all three in your business sustainability plan, you will have a higher chance of success. The pillars consider the essentials 'we' need to thrive.
On the way to reaching your benchmarks, all progress must be tracked and reported. Reports promote transparency and verification as to where your business is and where it can go. To move forward, you need the support of employees, stakeholders, and the community you operate in. How can they support you if they know what the business is doing? Complete transparency offers a human element to your business in what can seem to stakeholders as an anonymous machine.
A recent Sprout Social report found that 86% of respondents view transparency in business as “more important than ever before”. Another 89% said that they think a business would regain their trust if they're completely transparent about a mistake.
It is clear, that to build trusting relationships companies must be completely transparent. Gary Steele, Chairman and CEO of Proofpoint, writes in Forbes that complete transparency has helped his company strengthen its relationships with their clients, employees, and shareholders. He declared that transparency has also improved visibility within the company to predict future issues and opportunities for improvement. Finally, he states that being transparent is an aid to collaboration. improve
Develop sustainable work practices
Committing to reducing your company’s impact on the environment means implementing environmentally conscious workplace practices. Many simple changes can be made to reduce your company’s environmental impact. E.g., Implementing a recycling program, conserving energy, switching off electricals when not in use, changing to a renewable energy supplier, promoting paperless solutions, encouraging commuting with alternative modes of transport.
However, some aspects of your business might be out of your control, e.g., reduced chain value due to a natural deserter. As a result of the COVID 19 pandemic, corporate engagement or collaborating has grown in popularity. Over the past year, we have seen what can happen when companies, governments and communities work together for a common course.
Keryn James CEO of ERM recently wrote the pandemic is “a foretaste of the kind of disruption and devastation the world will experience if we do not address the state of the global commons – including climate change, biodiversity, natural loss and inequality”
Complex challenges are the reason for and the solution to sustainability. E.g., Climate change, resource depletion and ecosystem loss.
There are two types of collaborators:
- Corporate collaborators – These are ‘players’ whose ‘behaviour’ must immediately change to drive innovation. E.g., manufacturers, suppliers, distributors, retailers, and other members of your business chain.
- Extended collaborators – ‘players who are integral to the process but not directly involved. E.g., local government, other stakeholders, and relevant communities.
Collaborations have either one of two purposes:
- Processes – where stakeholders identify and share new operational processes that reduce resource consumption.
- Outcomes - Where stakeholders work together to define the desired outcome, create standardised matrices for measuring environmental impacts and benchmark performance.
Sustainability in business is not about getting more plants into the office or making recyclable packaging. It is about making progressive and systematic changes to save our environment, that we rely on.