Business Sustainability: What, Why, & How
Oct 16 2022

The world and people’s views on consumerism are both evolving quickly. Consumers didn’t give a damn about your company’s carbon emissions or plastic trash back then. Today, however, people expect businesses to act properly. Additionally, when corporations behave irresponsibly, their stock prices may fall as a result of negative public perception.

Strategic sustainability is a concept that you’ve probably heard of unless you’ve been hiding out under a rock. You have probably already heard about the business benefits of using sustainability as a strategy. But what precisely qualifies as a sustainable business? Does it only include switching to paper straws and LED bulbs? I guess not quite. Sustainability encompasses much more than that.

We’ll walk through business sustainability in this essay step by step. We’ll start by defining sustainability, discussing its significance, then discussing how to apply it to your organization. So, let’s get started.

A Sustainable Company: What Is It?

A sustainable business, often known as a green business, has no negative impact or only beneficial effects on the environment, the economy, and society. Sustainability is defined as “filling the requirements of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” by the United Nations Brundtland Commission. A sustainable business upholds progressive standards for the environment and human rights. However, other elements also matter.

Qualities of a sustainable business

Four characteristics of a green business are outlined by author Scott Cooney in his book Build a Green Small Business:

1. A green business applies sustainability principles to all of its business decisions. This indicates that every choice is made with the sustainability of the environment, society, and economy in mind.

2. A sustainable business provides environmentally friendly goods and helps to reduce the demand for non-green goods. For instance, Tesla is a business that is replacing conventional cars with electric ones that use recyclable lithium-ion batteries.

3. A sustainable business is greener than its established competitors. The good news is that they don’t have to manufacture pricey battery-powered automobiles if they can’t afford to. Being one step ahead of your rival counts as a sustainability step, even if it’s modest. For instance, a grocery store that only utilizes paper bags is more environmentally friendly than a rival that still offers plastic bags to consumers at the register.

4. Last but not least, a corporation that employs sustainability as a strategy runs its activities with an eye toward the environment. Professor Sharon Beder, an environmentalist like Cooney, has written a book titled Environmental Principles and Policies in which she discusses the six guiding principles: sustainability, polluter pays, precaution, equity, human rights, and participation.

Sustainable business examples

Now that you are aware of what a sustainable business is, let’s quickly go through some corporate instances of strategic sustainability. These businesses offer good beginning points even though they are not “completely sustainable” (which is almost impossible to achieve).

Apple: The renowned tech business reduces pollution by using aluminum instead of other materials.

IKEA: The Swedish-based furniture behemoth aims to recycle or recover energy from 90% of the waste generated by its operations.

Another significant participant in the technology sector, Intel, recycles 75% of its waste.

Unilever: The British consumer products company plans to cut its carbon emissions in half by 2030 by utilizing sustainability.

KEY LESSONS

A company can be referred to as sustainable if it operates with sustainability in mind, sells eco-friendly products, is greener than its traditional competitors, and incorporates sustainability into every aspect of its operations.

The sustainability principle, the polluter pays concept, the precautionary principle, the equity principle, the human rights principles, and the participation principle are only a few of the six environmental principles that Professor Sharon Bader lists in her work.

Businesses should employ sustainability as a strategy to draw in younger customers, enhance their reputation, and streamline processes.

Businesses can include sustainability by coming up with new ideas, restructuring processes, sourcing raw materials, and producing goods by fair trade principles.

Hiring a sustainability consultant, who specializes in developing sustainability plans and has assisted other businesses in becoming greener and more socially responsible, can help a company get started on its sustainability path.

Why Businesses Should Adopt a Sustainability Strategy

You are now aware of what a sustainable business might resemble. But you might be asking what the advantages of employing sustainability as a tactic are. Let’s explore the factors that could make strategic sustainability the best business move you ever make.

Draw in new talent and customers

Nielsen found that 75% of millennials are willing to alter their behaviors to lessen their environmental effect. There is no difference between the generations before the millennials. Numerous statistics exist on this subject, and they all point to the same conclusion: young people want a sustainable future. Therefore, companies that are not eco-friendly and sustainable may find it difficult to grow their empire in the years to come. A corporation will need to adopt sustainability as a strategy in the future if it wants to draw in many younger customers and employees.

Become more effective than rivals

Strategic sustainability: can it boost performance? It can. For instance, a survey conducted by McKinsey revealed that businesses that used less energy in their operations were 47% more productive than their rivals. Like this, businesses were 44% more productive than rivals when it came to trash from operations, 46% more productive when it came to water use, and 48% more productive when it came to emissions from operations. Again, none of this should be shocking. Sustainability as a strategy is advantageous for your company as well as the environment and society.

Improve the standing of your business

Let’s be honest: Most people aren’t particularly drawn to businesses that release massive amounts of dangerous gases into the atmosphere, throw massive amounts of rubbish into the environment, or obtain their raw materials unethically. Public relations will become more and more crucial as your company expands. Just as people may decide who will be president by casting their votes, they can also decide which businesses to spend their money with. More people than ever before are socially conscious. As a result, if your company’s reputation is poor, you risk losing investors and the value of your shares. Today’s consumers are much more powerful than you might realize.

As previously said, if given the opportunity, younger generations are more inclined to select a sustainable enterprise. Because of this, you should work to build a sustainable business before using advertising to promote your brand as an environmentally conscious business; this trend is already well on its way to being standard and will continue in the future.

How to Make Your Business More Sustainable

This brings us to the article’s conclusion. You’ve now gained a better understanding of what strategic sustainability is and the advantages of using sustainable business strategies. Let’s now examine some strategies you may use to make your business more sustainable.

1. Be inventive

You’ll need to innovate a lot and alter how your business runs while creating a sustainable one. For instance, you might have observed that coffee shops like Starbucks utilize disposable paper straws rather than plastic ones. One example of the invention is that. No one would have believed that paper straws could be used a few decades ago. But now, it is a fact.

2. Use ethical sourcing

Strategic sustainability includes the entire lifespan, beginning with the procurement and processing of raw materials, and goes beyond simply recycling garbage. Fair phone, a business that employs resources that were ethically mined and pay its workers fairly in poor nations, is a perfect illustration of this.

3. Revaluate procedures

When it comes to operations, don’t fall prey to the “that’s how we’ve always done it” mentality. You might need to change how your company operates so that they are more in line with sustainability principles to execute sustainability as a strategy. For instance, if the manufacturing process at your business requires a lot of water, you might reduce water waste by having your pipes properly cleaned once a month and address any leaks. Additionally, if your small business still prints paper invoices, you can consider switching to electronic invoicing and using electronic documents in place of paper ones. Such straightforward methods are sometimes disregarded, yet even the smallest steps might help you go closer to sustainability.

4. Employ a sustainability expert

You can learn skills and procedures from a sustainability consultant that you might not learn anywhere else. For instance, a Product Carbon Footprint expert can assess the environmental impact of your product and provide a product-by-product carbon footprint reduction strategy for your business. There are also sustainability strategy experts who may solve problems with energy use, procuring raw materials, recycling, and pollution control. They can genuinely assist you in creating a sustainable culture within your company, from a sustainability audit to a net-zero emission strategy.

We have now reached the conclusion of this article. Hopefully, you now have a clearer understanding of what strategic sustainability is and how to apply it to your company’s operations. The link in the previous sentence includes everything you need to get started if you want to embark on your own sustainability path. What are you still holding out for?

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