How to set your business on the sustainability path
In today’s world of business, embedding sustainability practices in your organization goes beyond preserving our planet; it impacts your brand and increases your bottom line. A 2017 research by Unilever revealed that 33% of consumers prefer to buy from brands they perceive are doing social or environmental good. In another breath, today’s employees consider sustainability a major criterion in taking up employment. Recent research conducted in the US indicates that 40% of millennials, who by the way will make up 70% of the workforce in the next 60years, are more likely to choose a company with a strong environmental agenda. Over 10% of the respondents of the survey were willing to take as much as $5,000-$10,000 pay cut to work for an environmentally sustainable alternative.
Increased level of awareness and the evident climate change-induced events happening around the globe will push these figures even higher. To thrive in today’s world of business, therefore, SMEs and big corporates must adopt sustainability practices and earn demonstrable credentials.
In its basic sense, sustainability practices come down to finding ways to use energy and resources more efficiently and reduce or eliminate existing waste streams. Regardless of the sector, any organization can find ways to become more sustainability-conscious and embed elements of sustainability to their business. Here, I will share a few simple practices organizations can adopt to set them on the path to this green titivation.
1. Senior leadership must take ownership
When it comes to sustainability practices, senior management must ensure it is part of the corporate strategy and assign human and material resources to ensure a smooth run of the sustainability program. Given the obvious benefits that accompany sustainability-minded organizations, it is critical to recruit or appoint a sustainability officer who sits over the organization’s sustainability initiatives. Small businesses with a lean budget could creatively assign and empower an existing member of staff to lead this aspect of the business. Whatever you do, the key is to assign responsibility and provide the requisite resources for performance.
2. Look within your walls
Charity starts at home they say. Go energy-efficient on electronic products and buy only sustainably manufactured items. For example, change all bulbs to energy-efficient types and consider buying second-hand furniture. The second-Hand effect, a report by Schibsted Media Group revealed that about 16.3 million tonnes of greenhouse were saved by users on Schibsted’s marketplace in 2016 for buying used instead of new items.
3. Go beyond the walls
What happens in the life of businesses you relate with should concern you. A key area to look at is your supply chain — your trading relationships. Why is this important? According to CPD’s report, Cascading commitments: driving ambitious actions through supply chain, a company’s supply chain comprises on average 5.5 times as many greenhouse gas emissions as its own operations. Depending on your situation, make it a priority to work with vendors who engage in sustainability practices. This will send a strong signal to your staff and suppliers and boost your sustainability brand equity. Imagine the spiral effect this strategy would have on an industry if practiced by most players in that industry.
4. Cut commute emissions
In 2014, the Carbon Trust suggested that increasing the number of people working from home in the UK could save more than three million tonnes of carbon a year. That’s a huge number when considered on a continental level. There are a few things organizations could do to cut commute emissions. For example, encourage remote working for at least once a week, provide incentives to encourage staff members to walk or cycle to work, encourage ride-sharing and go for electric vehicles.
5. Leverage technology and digitize work
A recent World Economic Forum report opined that digital technology can cut global emissions by 15% — one-third of the 50% reduction required by 2030. This is huge. Look through your operations and business processes to identify an area where you could leverage technology to eliminate waste and elevate efficiency. At the organization level, the easiest place to start is printing fewer documents. Explore infusing innovative technologies like AI, blockchain, IoT, etc., where they make economic sense to increase efficiency, reduce waste and slice emissions.