In today’s consumer-based world, there’s a huge debate around whether businesses should employ sustainable practices or not.
With more pressure put on bigger corporations and conglomerates, more value-driven approaches are becoming a priority.
So, why are sustainable business practices important? Not only can it help to drive social and environmental change, but sustainable business practices can contribute to an organization’s overall success and profitability.
- What Does Sustainability in Business Mean?
- Which Businesses Should Employ a Sustainability Strategy?
- How Should a Business Create a Sustainability Strategy?
- What Are the Benefits of Business Sustainability?
- Final Thoughts
What Does Sustainability in Business Mean?
There are many problems that plague the world today, many of which are the direct result of unchecked business practices.
While making profits is all good and well, there are far too many examples of how the attainment of profit to the exclusion of all else is cruel, unsustainable and uncontainable.
According to the Harvard School of Business Online, sustainability refers to a business performing day-to-day operations without negatively impacting society, community or the environment.
This means several factors come into play when devising a strategy.
The following is a quick list of such issues that affect every country on a global scale. Some of these involve:
- Depletion ; Destruction of Natural Resources
- Fair ; Safe Working Conditions
- Gender Inequality
- Human Rights Issues
- Income Inequality
- Pollution ; Waste Control
- Racial Injustice
- Societal Oppression
- General Environmental Harm
Which Businesses Should Employ a Sustainability Strategy?
Almost all business can institute a sustainability strategy, even small mom-and-pops.
But, the measures to take will depend on what the business produces, how much energy they use, how many natural resources they consume, the number of people they employ and the kind of waste it puts out into the environment.
For instance, a local coffee shop may choose to use actual cups and mugs rather than plastic ones to help reduce waste.
Alternatively, a major producer of cooking oil might opt to stop incorporating palm oil in their blends to help reduce rainforest destruction and preserve the habitat for Orangutans.
Social ; Communal
However, there’s the aspect of community and society as well.
This speaks to moral and ethical practices, which includes the treatment of employees.
In the case that there’s frequent employee turnaround, the company should figure out why that is.
If it’s an intentional practice on the part of the business, consider the negative impact this has.
Not only are there adverse ripple effects to society and community but also the resources and money it takes to find, hire and train new people.
How Should a Business Create a Sustainability Strategy?
One of the most popular methods for creating a sustainability strategy is employing the “triple bottom line.”
This is a concept that posits three P’s: Profits, People and Planet.
- Profit: Financial success is always the top priority of any business, especially if shareholders are at stake.
- People: This puts business decisions and considerations with people in mind. This includes employees, the local community and society as a whole.
- Planet: The environmental impact of a business’s practices and how much pollution or waste results.
When you combine these three concepts into a business’s plan of action, it takes a more holistic approach.
Many businesses in the past have stopped at “profit,” with great disregard for people or the planet.
But, with sustainability, this general mentality is changing.
What Are the Benefits of Business Sustainability?
Some implementations of sustainability can start off very costly.
This is the main reason why most businesses are hesitant to try them.
But, there’s a host of benefits to consider before an organization’s decision-makers write it off:
Protection ; Risk Mitigation
Not only do nefarious and careless practices create a public scandal, it can damage an organization’s reputation.
This means profits tank because customers will refuse to do anymore business.
This is a nightmare for any CEO.
Public relations disasters divert financial and human resources in ways that can be detrimental. In some cases, it can be bad enough for a company to close their doors for good.
Believe it or not, devising a sustainability strategy will add to goals while being conscious of the business’s purpose in the community.
In a study done by Oxford, almost 89% of business execs believe having a shared purpose boosts employee morale and satisfaction.
A business that does provable good in the world is attractive and desirable to people.
Not only will it generate topnotch employees but also plentitudes of customers.
Because customers are becoming more environmentally conscious of the products they buy and consume, there’s a huge demand for sustainable-friendly products.
If the good or service is high quality made with renewable components, they’ll pay more for it.
This has the potential to gain market shares by catering to these types of customers while increasing profits. In the end, sustainability practices can become a win-win situation.
You’re doing something good for the earth, providing a service/good customers will always come back for and making money all at the same time.
Individuals alone can’t make a difference. But, when done in tandem with a company who shares their concerns, huge change can happen.
For instance, when a spotlight shone on child slave labor for clothing in India or diamond mining in Sierra Leone, consumers stopped purchasing these items.
Both of these issues and subsequent public outcry have changed the world by leaps and bounds.
In response, many companies began labeling the sources of their clothing.
Scientists have discovered a way to create diamonds.
This means there’s no need to source ethical gemstones, which can be costly.
Becoming a sustainable business doesn’t have to mean putting off success or sacrificing profits.
It can be an intrinsic element in achieving goals while helping the world to solve some its worst problems.
Doing so attracts customers, quality employees and raises profits.
Of course, not every business will have to implement great or expensive strategies.
But doing a little here and there can be a force for good in the world.
Regardless, it’s something to consider to build a better future for tomorrow.