Today, it’s not enough for businesses to meet and exceed the numbers. To truly achieve success, companies must strive to promote positive change within and leave a lasting impact on the communities they move in. This is exactly what “sustainable development” is all about and, nowadays, more and more businesses are making it a primary objective alongside profitability.
What Makes a Business Sustainable?
Sustainability goes beyond corporate social responsibility (CSR). Sustainable acts should be part of an entire business’s mission and vision, strategies and daily operations.
There is no strict definition of what a sustainable business is. In fact, it can vary depending on the field and nature of the business. For example:
- In retail, sustainability experts often target the supply chain to look for ways to minimize waste in packaging, recycle old products, transport goods in more environmentally friendly ways, and control energy use in store branches.
- In manufacturing, sustainable efforts can include waste elimination, creating energy-efficient infrastructures, greenhouse gas reduction and discovering the least destructive way of using natural resources.
- In agribusiness, corporate sustainability can encompass a vast array of practices, including organic farming, urban horticulture, and permaculture.
But, whatever, the industry, sustainable businesses have three common goals: to preserve the environment, promote fair trade, and promote growth. Known as the “triple bottom line,” this holistic approach towards doing business places equal importance on the environment, people, and profit.
The Advantages of a Sustainable Business
Some companies don’t see the purpose of implementing sustainable practices in their business. But, unbeknownst to them, sustainability actually has a lot of advantages. It can help a business:
Save money. When you minimize waste, reduce energy use, and employ eco-friendly technologies, you can generate a significant amount of savings for your company. Even small actions, such as turning off computer monitors when not in use or changing all corporate packaging into paper can make a difference.
Boost market share. Efficient businesses with a reputation for eco-conscious practices are now attracting a lot of attention from responsible consumers, savvy entrepreneurs, and the press. If your business is stable or even earning more because of its sustainability, investors are more likely to want to entrust their money into your company.
Create green-collar jobs. Because of an increasing focus on sustainability, a lot of new titles can be introduced into your company. Energy-efficient construction workers, wind energy engineers, and passive solar building designers are just a few of the job opportunities you’ll be providing people with. With the rise of sustainability, a million jobs will be readily available for those who need it.
Attract and retain excellent talent. Businesses that have fair and ethical practices can catch the attention of young yet highly qualified employees. When your people know they are working in a company that upholds its values, they are more likely to perform better in and be happy with their jobs.
The Importance of Goal Realignment
Before you start implementing sustainability in your business, there’s one thing you should do: define your goal. When you have a goal, all your actions won’t seem half-hearted or meaningless. Whether it’s to reduce your company’s waste production by 80% or to help other businesses that uphold sustainability, this goal will serve as a reminder for you and your employees that your efforts aren’t in vain. Be consistent and run your business in accordance with the outcome you envision.
Employing sustainability is a big change, that’s a fact. It will require many adjustments over many aspects of your business, from the tiniest habits to entire operations. But, this can only happen if you’re willing to embrace these changes and see how they impact your surroundings, both in the short-term and long-term of things.
Having the Right People
Every major change in a business begins with one person. Having a leader in your company who can advocate for sustainable practices is important in getting everybody else onboard, as well. You can be the leader or you can hire an expert to do the work for you. Just make sure that the leader targets every employee level, from an intern to the highest management.
Allocating Enough Resources
You can’t expect to run a sustainable business without providing the necessary resources to do so. This includes not only money, but the people, time and tools. You need to collect the required information to understand what and how much resources you need. Consult with experts and let your team know your decisions so they can pitch in their own thoughts on the matter.
Enhancing Production Processes
The daily operations of your business are what will make the biggest difference if you implement sustainability into those processes. Calculate the amount of energy being used in those processes and, if you see fit, upgrade your machinery or streamline your operations to make them more energy-efficient. Study proper waste reduction techniques and identify recycling opportunities so you can lessen the waste that gets sent to landfills.
Encouraging a Sustainable Supply Chain
As a business, you have a network of suppliers who may or may not believe in what you want to do for your business. It’s time to choose the ones that do uphold your beliefs. Conduct a supply chain audit to determine the areas of your business that you need to review, such as packaging and transport. Talk to other business owners and ask them if they know any suppliers that strictly follow sustainable policies and laws in everything that they do. This way, you support rising eco-friendly suppliers and set an example for future businesses.
Sustainability isn’t a one-time effort – it’s a habit. After you’ve managed to convert your business into one that promotes environmental consciousness, the work shouldn’t stop there. Don’t stop learning about new and innovative practices, preaching the practices to other people, and evaluating your existing methods to pave the way for better ones.
Don’t just stick to one technique. Evaluate your current situation and reinvent your business practices according to your needs. Sustainability has to work for both the planet and for you.