Business sustainability has never been as important as in modern times since consumers demand improved corporate social responsibility.
This article explores several sustainable solutions businesses can use to reduce costs while giving back to the environment.
We outline transitioning considerations and show how businesses of any size can take measures toward more innovative practices.
What Is Business Sustainability?
Sustainability in business involves running a company that does not negatively impact:
- the environment
- society and communities
Environmental sustainability practices in business might deal with:
- environmental degradation
- climate change issues
Regarding society, business sustainability could involve:
- social injustice
- community impact
Many business sustainability initiatives aim not merely to avoid negative impacts but to create a positive effect
on one or both of these fields.
Incorporating environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies into the business strategy can:
- provide longevity
- avoid present or future liabilities
Examples Of Sustainable Practices In Business
Notable retail brands have all begun to make changes for the environment's good. Some examples of relatively sustainable businesses are:
All these companies demonstrate sustainability in a business by taking actionable steps to reduce environmental impact.
- IKEA and Nike have made strides with renewable energy sources
- Adidas and H&M have pledged to start their journeys toward utilizing 100% sustainable materials
- Walmart has decided to begin lowering emissions from its vehicle fleet
An example of a sustainable practice from the societal perspective is Apple. They've announced many initiatives to combat racial inequity and injustice.
The plan lays out support via:
- monetary donations
- educational buildings for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
- the launch of the Apple Developer Academy in Detroit
Importance Of Sustainability In Business
Studies indicate that over 70% of global emissions come from only 100 organizations.
If companies like these incorporate sustainable practices, they stand to eliminate a huge chunk of global emissions.
Although larger companies make up many of these emissions, small business sustainability remains equally important.
All businesses contribute to waste and emissions and must therefore take responsibility for creating a better environmental future.
Whether these actions take the form of donations to local communities or diversity initiatives within the company itself, corporate leaders must accept the responsibility of devoting effort to making the world more equal and just.
Benefits Of Business Sustainability Practices
Sustainability initiatives are an excellent way to:
- develop brand loyalty
- set your business apart from others in your field
According to research done by IBM, 55% of customers are more inclined to choose environmentally responsible brands.
This is particularly true of younger consumers. Nearly half of Gen Z consumers say they would willingly spend 20-30% more on eco-friendly products from sustainable brands.
Thus, switching to business sustainability strategies can make your company more appealing.
Gen Z customers, who are passionate about environmental issues.
Building a steady, loyal base of young consumers sets up a business for long-term success. Why? It is a promise of continued and reliable sales.
Often, implementing sustainable changes takes a large amount of investment in terms of:
However, considering their long-term potential, those investments are more than worth the initial cost.
Incorporating sustainability into your business model involves lowering resource consumption and optimizing operations.
As a company learns to operate under a greener supply chain, it may find ways to cut costs using fewer resources. More efficient operations and internal practices can quickly increase the bottom line, boosting revenue growth.
Enhancing Corporate Reputation
Implementing sustainability initiatives reinforces a company's commitment to social responsibility. This is because acting ethically usually reflects positively on its public image.
This is particularly important nowadays, given increased scrutiny regarding how organizations act towards their environment and society at large.
In turn, having better relationships with key stakeholders helps companies build trust within their communities. This can significantly boost customer loyalty while providing firms access to new sources of investment capital.
Types Of Sustainability
Every business impacts the environment in some way, regardless of industry or size. That impact brings a responsibility to:
Environmental sustainability typically entails:
- do business in the least ecologically damaging way possible
- find ways to give back to the environment
- reducing the business's carbon footprint, waste, and emissions
- improving energy efficiency and incorporating renewable resources
Social sustainability involves managing the impacts that a business may have on people. Those people can be:
People usually want to support a socially sustainable business because it brings positive social change.
- employees of the company itself
- simply members of the surrounding community
Some examples include:
- donating to local communities
- incorporating internal diversity initiatives
Economic sustainability focuses on:
- a business's profitability and long-term economic growth
- the potential impact that this could have on the environment and the surrounding community
This requires businesses to find a balance between practicing sustainability and managing risks.
After all, if a company takes on too many sustainable changes at once without proper thought about the risk that could pose to long-term success, it could stand to lose revenue as a result.
Start Developing A Business Sustainability Plan
Align Your Business Strategies And Model With Sustainability
Trying to incorporate sustainability could end up in failure without properly aligning it to:
- business goals
Suppose the two concepts are at odds with each other. In that case, companies will naturally prioritize business strategies over sustainable practices, setting them aside without real commitment or prioritization.
To accomplish this alignment, businesses need to have a clear vision of their mission.
One way to officially establish or outline a company mission is to write a mission statement.
Mission statements should explain:
- what the business aims to do
- why and how it aims to do it
Try to incorporate both business and sustainability goals. Remember that you can also adapt your mission statement as your company grows and evolves.
Prioritize Compliance Before Competition
Compliance usually refers to the regulations set in place by the government to ensure companies incorporate sustainable practices effectively.
Such regulations may apply to environmental concerns like:
- waste management
- energy efficiency
- social concerns like labor laws
It is essential to ensure your business complies with regulations to avoid any issues.
Build A Business Case For Sustainability
To do this, you need to identify existing problems that sustainability initiatives could potentially solve.
These problems may center around:
- the amount of waste produced
- the business's impact on local communities
- internal or external hiring practices
- and more
With your main problems in mind, you can begin justifying sustainability initiatives as solutions and develop objectives for the overall plan.
and assessment are other crucial aspects of any business case. Stakeholders want to know if the investment will be worth the return.
Be realistic about the results of the sustainability plan and quantify them in a way that clearly outlines the value they will bring to the business.
You should already have a means of assessment in mind, so corporate leaders know how to measure the results.
Corporate Sustainability Areas
Companies can reduce their energy use by exploring alternative sources such as solar or wind power.
Organizations should also focus on reducing the amount of electricity used. This can be done through:
- smart technology, such as LED lighting
- automated temperature control systems
Additionally, investments in renewable infrastructure projects (e.g., biomass plants) can help create green jobs while reducing the company's reliance on fossil fuels.
Companies should look into reducing their waste output by implementing recycling programs for:
- paper products
- food scraps
- industrial waste materials like plastic packaging or metal containers produced from manufacturing processes
Following best practices from leading companies in this space will ensure better adoption rates with a minimal upfront investment.
Organizations must know how much they waste due to operational activities like:
- laundry services
- cooling towers used during production
This is especially true for those that operate in arid climates and actively measure and analyze usage patterns to drastically reduce consumption levels where possible.
Reusing graywater whenever possible can also be part of a greater effort toward conserving resources.
Carbon Emissions Reduction
To significantly reduce their environmental footprint, companies must stop using motor vehicles that run on gasoline/diesel fuel altogether.
This is because they remain one of the largest emitters globally.
Fortunately, electric vehicle technologies are becoming more widespread.
When combined with renewable sources powering all operations, businesses can achieve long-term reductions in carbon emissions.
Workplace safety must always precede any other factor when making organizational decisions. Employee well-being should drive any successful business venture forward.
Relying on outdated equipment will put workers at risk, thus increasing potential liabilities, which would then reflect poorly upon the company's reputation.
There needs to be an emphasis on compliance and proactive education initiatives encouraging all employees and licensed personnel to proceed cautiously and double-check instructions before starting any new task.
Sustainable Business Practices
Partner With Nonprofit Organizations
Businesses just starting with their sustainability initiatives may find partnering with a nonprofit organization extremely helpful.
These organizations have tons of resources and connections for education about the organization's sustainability practices in your specific industry.
They may not always be able to help implement new policies, but they can certainly provide ideas to jumpstart your new plan, especially if you have no idea where to begin.
Incorporate Renewable And Responsible Resources
Reassess your processes to find places to substitute waste products like plastic with eco-friendly resources.
Packaging is often a great place to start. Not only is it often one of the first things a customer sees, but you can also alterer easily without making drastic changes to the products themselves.
In addition, you should ensure the resources you use come from a responsible source. Avoid working with suppliers who do not follow labor laws or procure resources in a way that is detrimental to the environment.
Challenges To Small Businesses' Sustainability
Compared to larger corporations, small businesses often need help incorporating large initiatives like sustainability. Let's examine a few of those challenges and some potential ways to overcome them.
Lack Of Resources
Many small businesses don't have enough staff or funds. They may not feel like they have the time, funds, or staff available to set such a large plan in motion.
However, it is essential to remember that sustainability is essentially an investment. It can save money in the long term by cutting costs in the supply chain and encouraging customer loyalty. Thus, producing a steady revenue stream.
And for those struggling with funds, some states offer grants, tax credits, and free access to sustainable resources to help you get started.
An understaffed small business may already be asking a lot of its employees. This can make business leaders hesitant when asking employees to take on the extra stress of incorporating a new sustainability initiative.
However, change can be exciting as much as it is stressful.
By educating your staff on the potential benefits of a sustainability plan, you will likely see encouragement rather than resistance, mainly if it includes socially sustainable changes to improve their lives.
The Future Of Sustainability In Business
A successful sustainable business model requires strategic foresight, customer insight, and operational execution.
To create tangible change in the environment and society and encourage long-term success, business leaders must take steps to create a sustainable business strategy, with ESG issues appearing at the core of the business model
The shift toward sustainability in business is already massively underway. Gone are the days when CEOs brushed sustainability aside as a passing thought. And this is not only due to the government regulations implemented over the years.
Corporate leaders have begun to notice the business potential in sustainability initiatives, especially when building brand loyalty.
With more and more customers looking to buy products from responsible businesses, having a sustainability plan in place will only become essential to gaining and maintaining a competitive edge over others in your industry in the years to come.
Learn what else a business plan should contain
What is the main purpose of sustainability?
The main purpose of sustainability is to ensure that activities and developments meet the needs of current generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
In other words, it is about managing resources and developing practices to reduce environmental impact while meeting the demands of economies, societies, and communities.
What are the 3 P's of business sustainability?
The Three P's of Business Sustainability refers to the triple bottom line of People, Planet, and Profit.
This approach recognizes that businesses need to balance their financial success with social responsibility and environmental protection to remain viable into the future.
Who can improve business sustainability?
Everybody from executives and managers to employees and customers can improve business sustainability.
Executives and managers are responsible for setting long-term objectives that keep the organization on a sustainable path while also considering short-term decisions that affect stakeholders.
Employees should use their knowledge and skills to develop innovative solutions to help the business achieve its sustainability goals. Customers have an essential role in supporting businesses' green initiatives.
How do you ensure sustainability in a business?
First, create a comprehensive sustainability plan.
Then, implementation is critical. Focus on incorporating small changes into daily operations that will add up over time toward achieving larger sustainability targets.
Finally, communicate. Educate stakeholders (investors, employees, and customers) about your commitment to being a socially responsible company through published reports, newsletters, and press releases.