Sustainability practices are quickly becoming one of the top focal points in the business world. The general awareness and understanding of climate change and the state of natural resources is spreading daily. Sustainable business practices are becoming important elements of business operations. The public eye continues to enhance its focus on the part that large organizations play in climate change during their daily operations, including their use of fossil fuels, the accuracy with which sustainability reporting is done, and whether sustainable practice is valued within their business models.
A business that maintains a satisfactory level of sustainability efforts is often referred to as a green business. Business sustainability involves business operations conducted in such a manner that the environmental impact is minimal in terms of annual greenhouse gas emissions, energy efficiency, climate risk, carbon footprint, and any other factors that may impact the environment. Sustainability practices may also involve adherence to the triple bottom line, which refers to planet, people, and profit. Social responsibility for how resources are used is at the heart of what sustainability means to the public and the corporate world.
Society today understands the extreme impact that businesses can have on environmental sustainability. There is a rising expectation of sustainable business activities and a commitment to environmental sustainability among consumers and regulatory bodies.
While a sustainable business model forms the foundation of sustainability, the employees often do the actual work. They are mostly at the ground level of corporate sustainability objectives.
Human Resource Professionals
Human Resources form the stepping stone between upper management and the general workforce. Thus they can be an important part of sustainable businesses. Development and implementation of policies rest mainly with the human resource department in any business. This can make it easier for the human resources department to take responsibility for company culture and to promote desired behaviors among staff.
Middle managers and administrators are at the heart of employees’ daily responsible practices and general environmental awareness. Sustainable companies tend to rely on mid-management to ensure that everyone adheres to business practices (including those that maintain sustainability investments). It is a general assumption that business sustainability is essential to the well-being of future generations and continued economic development in the face of an ever-developing world.
It tends to be the case that business leaders and owners are the ones who make decisions related to, for example, implementing sustainability practices, and subsequently often get involved with sustainability challenges in the workplace. They might do this because they have been made aware of social and environmental issues that they feel they can help to address, or simply to meet regulatory requirements for their industry. Sustainable development and, more precisely, sustainability strategy may come from training at an organizational leadership level and are then often modeled from the top down to make implementation more successful. The balance between sustainable business practices, production processes, and financial performance is mostly upheld by corporate governance.
While sustainability in business often may bode well for matters like environmental degradation and the fate of future generations, it also may carry economic value for a business, including financial benefits and a foothold in newly developed markets.
But what could sustainability bring to your business?
Increased Bottom Line
A more sustainable business often results in a boost in the bottom line. Business costs are reduced, and the good name of a sustainable business often results in more business coming in.
Some research indicates that companies with solid and sustainable initiatives already in place may see measurable benefits above those without. Naturally, this would suggest that when companies fail to address and overcome sustainability issues, their bottom line and incoming business prospects are undoubtedly affected. However, this might not be the case for all companies without exception.
Businesses that are known to be sustainable generally have a better brand awareness among consumers who are actively attracted to sustainable development and practices. Recent trends strongly suggest that consumers are starting to expect sustainable business practices and are more likely to engage companies with a reputation for being sustainable. At this point, it remains a general belief that this is the case, and might be specific to industries or regions.
Improvement in Business Reputation
Corporate social responsibility is often at the forefront of management development in such a manner that it is clear to the public that a company cares about issues like climate change and the use of sustainable materials. This has the potential of helping to improve an overall business reputation.
Reduces Business Costs
When implemented correctly, sustainable practices have the potential to improve operational efficiency, lower business expenses, and increase revenue.
Growth in Revenue
Generally, with sustainable practices, fewer resources are used, and efficiency is optimized, which results in higher revenue.
A sustainable business is sometimes more attractive to prospective employees, especially at an executive level, so hiring new talent of the best quality is easier in some instances.
Businesses with suitable digital transformations and overall sustainable changes following the pandemic tend to be more resilient and better equipped for new opportunities or disruptions.
In many parts of the world, more and more regulatory requirements are being aimed at sustainable development. Some places or industries may even have regulations related to the environmental impact that a business may have. If measures are already in place to ensure sustainability, the business is likely more resilient and better prepared for sustainability-related regulations.
Investors are often more attracted to organizations that already have sustainability initiatives in place within the changing economic climate.
While sustainability has the potential to help a business, implementation of sustainability is not without challenges.
Lack of Focus
When there is no focus – no plans, or ineffective plans – a business profit line can be negatively impacted. When planning to implement sustainable business strategies, it might be better to start small.
Lack of Measurability
Implementation procedures should ideally be measurable. If progress and success cannot be measured, there is little indication of whether plans are effective. There are also likely to be problems with motivation levels among those affected by the plans as there is no way to show for sure that their efforts are bearing fruit.
Sustainability initiatives ideally need to be supported throughout the company. If there are pockets where support is not met, implementing plans will be exceedingly difficult.
Lack of Resources
Ensuring any business becomes a successful green business through sustainability strategies requires a certain degree of resources, without which plans cannot be implemented. If resources or, indeed, funds through which to acquire resources are not available, plans cannot be implemented.
Once a business has taken up the responsibility to embrace sustainability, there are certain steps that can be taken to make the transition smooth.
Form a Sustainability Committee
Having a representative team to take responsibility for sustainability initiatives can make the goal more attainable as people are there to be held accountable. Those people can also ensure that those not following through with the plan can be held responsible.
Consider Remote Work Options
Remote working and green commuting go hand-in-hand. Where possible, having workers who work from home can save a business revenue but also improve employee wellness and is good for the environment as fewer fuel-based gasses are emitted.
Implement Recycling in the Office
This might seem small, but it can make a great difference and can create a sense of ‘doing’ among employees at all levels. Consciousness is essential to success, and implementing something like recycling in the office attracts more specified attention to efforts and is a clean practice in and of itself.
A successful sustainability strategy might need to create a balance between demands from the market, differentiators, and drivers from the environment. In order to achieve these many digital technologies, those driving sustainability development are utilized.
The first step is often a vision for the business that is clear and agreed upon by essential parties and stakeholders. The next step is a framework built around a timeframe to be measurable and trackable. Having all of these plans in an environmental management system with clearly defined parameters is helpful. Implementation should be concrete and measurable.
Developing and implementing a corporate sustainability strategy can be daunting. Knowing where to start and how to go about the implementation is often challenging. As sustainability in business evolves, the process changes too. An ecosystem of innovation is helpful for a business to keep up.
Sustainability in business can easily take the back seat to other business matters. Many businesses struggle to keep sustainability plans at the forefront of their development.
While sustainability in business can save money over time and increase revenue in the long run, it can often involve higher upfront costs than anticipated. Nonetheless, sustainable business practices tend to be better for the business in the long term, and upfront costs are made up over time.
While many people are drawn to sustainability, some hesitation might remain among customers accustomed to a specific product or service. Change can be challenging but is encouraged nonetheless.
Current business insights indicate that sustainability in business is here to stay. Technology advances continuously to assist businesses in managing environmental and climate risk. The ultimate goal is to have more sustainable supply chains, decarbonization, and better asset management. Further elements such as renewable energy and overall environmental sustainability continue to be worldwide concerns and will likely be the center of future developments for the foreseeable future.