The warning signs are there, and have been for some time. The hellish wildfires in California are only the most recent publicised disaster to serve as a stark reminder of our responsibility to our planet.
This responsibility needs to filter through, not just to our home lives, but to our work and business practices too.
There is a common misconception that sustainability in business requires sacrifice. On the contrary, there is evidence to suggest that businesses adhering to corporate social responsibilities thrive. They enjoy greater financial success, lower cost of debt, and greater stability during financial crises.
Customers and investors are also taking a keen interest in sustainability. Many report that a firm’s commitment to corporate social responsibility impacts their decision to buy.
If you’ve already gone paperless, committed to recycling your waste, and rented a green office space, what’s next? Here are three steps to being seen as a leader in sustainable business practice.
Your commitment to working in an environmentally conscious way should not stop at the threshold to your office. Your suppliers, customers, and collaborators should all be aware of and involved in this too.
A great place to start is talking to each of these stakeholders to learn what they are doing to uphold sustainable practices. Then, take stock of your own business processes and how you could refresh them.
Could you reduce your carbon footprint by stocking your office with more locally sourced goods, for example? Could you encourage your customers to buy digital versions of your product? Could that important client meeting take place virtually rather than requiring travel?
To be truly sustainable, your business will need to lead by example. By encouraging everyone you work with to adopt this mindset, your business will increase its positive environmental impact exponentially. Additionally, other businesses and individuals will associate your brand with this endeavour.
Making your efforts towards sustainability an integral part of your business’ mission means being clear and transparent. A great way to do this is to publish an Environmental Policy Statement. The benefits of this are many. External stakeholders and clients will understand your commitment to protecting the environment. Internal colleagues will also understand their role in helping you to achieve your goals.
To begin crafting your statement, first assess how each of your processes could be impacting the environment. Then, set tangible goals with measurable, time-bound outcomes that are realistic and relevant to your industry. Make sure that, as a bare minimum, you commit to following the relevant legislation for sustainability in your region.
Further points to consider in your statement are how you will communicate and deliver on the goals you set. Staff training, continuous improvement, and regular reviews are all important to comment on.
Before publishing your statement, make sure that all employees understand and agree to the goals you’ve set. Buy-in from across the business is crucial, since you’ll need to deliver on the promises you make in the statement. These goals should be reviewed regularly by senior management to ensure that progress continues to be made towards them.
There is no set regulation on how to format your statement, but templates can be found online to help you get started.
ISO (International Organization for Standardization) standards are an internationally recognised certification of excellence in management. There are thousands of different standards that you can apply for. The 14000 family of ISOs helps businesses in any sector to manage their environmental responsibilities. ISO 14001 relates specifically to environmental management systems.
Achieving this accreditation shows the world that your business is committed to working in a sustainable way. Other benefits include aligning all members of staff with this goal and improving efficiencies to save costs. Not only this, but you’ll encourage your suppliers to follow your example and integrate environmentally friendly practices.
To apply for this, you’ll need to consider any and all environmental issues that relate to your operations. How are you using your resources? How do you manage waste? How do you mitigate against climate change?
An ISO standard will take most businesses some time to work towards, but the long-term pay-off will be worth it.
Working sustainably is no longer an after-thought – it must be a key thread in the fabric of your business. By setting tangible goals like the ones listed here, you can achieve true sustainability in the long term.