Consumer demand for sustainable products and practices continues to grow, and environmentally conscious businesses are better positioned to meet this market demand. Driven by consumer awareness and environmental realities, companies such as Patagonia, Ford, and Unilever are embracing the business value of going green. These influential brands realize that added value comes from a triple bottom line approach that takes financial, social, and environmental performance into consideration.
Sustainable businesses practices can:
- Save money from reduced waste and increased efficiency
- Attract green consumers
- Differentiate a business from its competitors
- Enhance public relations
- Improve employee morale and engagement
- Minimize risk, financial and otherwise, from the impacts of climate change
Although there are a tremendous amount of rewards for implementing sustainability, it can be difficult for a company to figure out where to start.
Below are 3 actions your organization can take right now to prepare for a sustainable future:
1. Create a sustainability strategy, which is a road map of short-term and long-term goals that align with your company’s sustainability and corporate vision. This strategy will help you set goals, motivate employees, and gain support from customers. Ask yourself the following:
- What does sustainability mean to you?
- Do you want to pollute less and use fewer resources than companies in the same sector?
- Are your customers or stakeholders interested in companies striving to become more sustainable?
- Are your corporate clients looking to green their supply chain?
- Are there leaders in sustainability in your industry? If so, what actions are these sustainability leaders taking?
You may not know these answers; the strategy development process is designed to clarify how sustainability fits in with your company’s unique position and value proposition.
2. Establish a Green Team. This is a good step in the road to sustainability and employee engagement. Sustainability may require a cultural shift, and that can only happen with the support of your employees who will be implementing sustainable practices. Establishing a green team in your business allows for employees to directly engage with sustainability issues. Green teams address issues such as office recycling, commuter incentives, office procurement and special sustainability related events. It is imperative to involve your employees while developing your company’s sustainability vision: employees may have great ideas on how to reduce environmental impacts and implement your vision.
3. Measure Your Impact using a sustainability audit. This allows you to identify actions that will effectively address your environmental impacts. Are you spending too much on energy for lighting? Do products in your supply chain use conflict minerals, illegally forested paper, or harmful chemicals? How much can you realistically reduce energy costs? What percent of our impact on the environment is from air travel versus office operations?
Measuring your impacts with a sustainability audit produces the metrics that allow true strategy development and management over time.