Sustainability In Business

Sustainability In Business

Reduce Your Business’s Eco Footprint

Businesses have a lot of different factors to consider in how to manage their operations. Lately, one of the ones that has risen to the top in importance is sustainability. No, this isn’t doing what is necessary to stay sustained in business. Sustainability means doing business without a negative impact on the environment, the community or society as a whole. It can be divided into one of two areas: the effect of business on the environment or the effect of business on society.

Businesses who are striving to be sustainable are making decisions considering a wide array of environmental, economic and social factors. Here’s some ideas of what sustainability in business can look like:

The Google study concluded that what distinguished “good” teams from dysfunctional teams was how teammates treated one another. And when they applied this concept to real observation, it held up. The good teams spoke in roughly the same proportion, a phenomenon the researchers referred to as “equality in distribution of conversational turn-taking.” Second, the good teams all had high “average social sensitivity” - a fancy way of saying they were skilled at inuiting how other felt based on their tone of voice, their expressions and other nonverbal cues.

  • Using sustainable materials in manufacturing
  • Optimizing supply chain to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Using renewable energy sources to power facilities
  • Sponsoring educational opportunities for youth in the local community

Investors are now using business sustainability metric which has the fancy name of environmental, social and governance (ESG) metrics. This analyzes an organization’s ethical impact and sustainability practices which includes factors like carbon footprint, water usage, community development efforts and board diversity.

If your company is not currently adopting a sustainable business philosophy, how can you get there? Here are some guidelines for getting on board.

  1. Figure out what sustainability means for your team, company and industry. What are the big problems that you want to make a priority? Company culture? Diversity? Community Impact?
  2. Establish Your Mission. This distinct statement is critical to becoming more sustainable. This statement tells why you do what you do. And it answers the five Ws: who, what, when, where and why.
  3. Put Together Your Strategy. Obviously, you have to stay in business so whatever you decide to do you have to make sure you stay profitable. But consider also what will impact people and the planet. By looking at what will benefit all three, you can develop a plan. Something easy like motion sensors that turn off the lights might be a good start. A Unilever study found that 33% of consumers want to buy from brands “doing social or environmental good”.
  4. Implement Strategy and Assess Results. Make sure you have a quantifiable way to evaluate your strategy. And take a look at your plan from time to time and make changes or additions as you see the need.

So, what is the ultimate payoff for companies? Blackrock CEO Larry Fink says that “failure to manage climate-related risks and other harmful actions will catch up with a company and destroy shareholder value.” Companies who work toward sustainability will also find more ways to innovate. Entrepreneur Paul Hawken writes, “sustainability is one of the most certain paths to innovation for companies seeking a competitive edge.” Sustainability can lead to bigger revenues and profits. Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface, one of the greenest companies in America says, “Done right, sustainability doesn’t cost. It pays.”

Anderson also emphasized in his TED talk that sustainability also increases a company’s attractiveness to potential employees. A recent global survey found that 78% of students were more inclined to apply for a job with a company with excellent environmental performance and 80% would accept a job with that company. A whopping 44% would accept a lower salary to work for a sustainable organization.

And does it matter if the company is large or small? Actually, it doesn’t. Nearly 50% of US consumers want to change their consumption habits to save the environment so they’d be willing to do business with any company that helps them do that. So even a small company can be part of the sustainability crusade with choices as easy as vendor selection, ongoing recycling efforts, or a products sold for an environmental effort (buy a gallon of paint = plant a tree).

One of the best ways businesses can foster a sustainable environment is teaching younger generations about why it’s important to care for the planet. Finding opportunities to teach at any level whether it’s through funding programs in the classroom or showcasing business efforts on websites or in social media, there are many ways to set an example for students. Smaller businesses may get involved in community events like Earth Day and talk about energy use or recycling in their workplace.

In his TED talk, Anderson explained that, “while business was the ‘chief culprit’ in causing environmental decline it was also ‘the only institution that is large enough, and pervasive enough, and powerful enough, to really lead humankind out of this mess.”