Doing business comes at a cost, and all too often it is the environment that pays the price, from deforestation caused by harvesting raw materials to greenhouse gas emissions generated by delivering products and powering offices.
However, all companies have the power to change how they do business and have a positive impact on the environment by becoming more sustainable.
Going green not only benefits the planet and society more broadly, but it can also come with a range of advantages for the business itself. Eco-friendly products and policies can greatly improve a company’s reputation, as well as help to grow its customer base and increase profits, as consumers become ever more eco-conscious.
Importance of Sustainability for Businesses
The way companies do business and the choices they make can have an incredible impact on the environment.
For one example, consider ocean plastic pollution: according to the NOAA, around eight million metric tonnes of plastic enter the ocean every year. This plastic can be very dangerous, even fatal, to marine life who can get tangled up in the waste or ingest small and micro plastic particles. Businesses across the world can play an important role in addressing this issue by avoiding single-use plastics and embracing eco-friendly packaging.
Along with governments and individuals, companies have a major role to play in protecting the environment and addressing major threats in the years to come, from plastic pollution to climate change.
However, when companies adopt sustainable practices, this doesn’t only benefit the environment and society, but it’s also good for business. Here’s how.
Sustainability is More Cost Effective in the Long Run
A small initial investment can save businesses a great deal in operational costs in the long run.
For example, buying solar panels typically involves a large upfront cost for equipment and installation. However, a solar panel system will more than pay for itself over time by drastically reducing the company’s electricity bills.
Additionally, many governments offer rebates and tax credits to businesses that follow sustainable management practices. Recycling and reusing materials can also greatly reduce business expenses and the amount spent on raw materials.
It Boosts the Business’ Reputation
Sustainability affects customers’ buying decisions, with an increasing number of consumers opting for products and brands with eco credentials. Becoming more sustainable means companies improve their reputation, as this sends a clear message that they care about society and the environment rather than just making money.
For example, toy brand Lego saw a huge jump in popularity after announcing it would manufacture all its products from plant-based materials. The company has also set a goal to use 100% sustainable materials for production and packaging by 2030.
It Increases the Bottom Line
A stronger reputation and green credentials translate into more sales and increased revenue.
Sustainability is a massive selling point these days, and brands can leverage eco-friendly products and processes to market their offerings. Reduced operational costs, a better business reputation, and a growing customer base will all work together to increase the company’s bottom line.
Business and Sustainability: Key Challenges
An eco-friendly business is not just worried about profit, but also their impact on the environment. They adhere to the triple bottom line, meaning they care about profit, people, and the planet. They consider their use of the Earth’s resources and the impacts of their processes, from how raw materials are sourced to how the final product is delivered.
While sustainability can be a huge asset for businesses, it also involves a set of risks, especially for small businesses. Furthermore, implementing these changes can be challenging.
Lack of Resources
A lack of adequate resources, especially funds, is a major barrier to businesses going green. However, going green doesn’t have to mean spending your entire capital on sustainable changes. Instead, companies can take small steps that are within their budget and capacity.
Lack of Employee Interest
Embracing sustainability needs to involve the whole organization, from the leadership to every employee. It’s critical to get the whole team on board and take these goals seriously. Companies can do this through ongoing training and staff engagement, as well as offering incentives to employees.
Lack of Planning
Like any new approach, businesses need a comprehensive strategy in order to effectively go green. A lack of proper planning is sure to result in an ineffective approach that is more likely to damage profits than increase them.
How Businesses Can Be More Sustainable
There are many ways that companies can embrace sustainability. Here are a few examples:
- Practice Recycling: Recycling helps to conserve the earth’s precious resources and avoids sending rubbish to landfills that take up precious space, threatening species and their habitats, while also contributing to soil and air pollution. Businesses can set up recycling systems for everything from their office waste to feeding off-cuts of materials back into the manufacturing process.
- Offer Remote Work: Allowing employees to work remotely greatly reduces greenhouse gas emissions associated with commuting to work, as well as slashing the business’ energy use.
- Encourage Green Commutes: If remote work isn’t an option, companies can encourage employees to take the bus, consider carpooling, or use electric bikes to reduce their collective emissions. Organisations can even offer incentives to staff members who walk or cycle to the office.
- Ban Plastic at Work: Businesses should avoid all single-use plastic, such as straws or plastic cups, from the workplace and replace them with eco-friendly alternatives.
How to Drive Sustainability in Business
Whether you’re a budding green entrepreneur or looking to promote sustainability within existing companies, there is a range of ways you can strengthen the connection between business and sustainability. A great place to start is with a qualification like EDHEC’s online certificate in Climate Change and Sustainable Investing.
With these skills and qualifications, you’ll be equipped to make a positive impact within the business sector, whether by establishing your own eco startup, managing sustainable investment portfolios, or developing sustainability initiatives for one of the world’s biggest companies.