Sustainability in business may seem like an idealistic dream or an unachievable fantasy. There is so much wrong that needs to be made right and so much damage that needs to be healed. How might my one small sustainable business practice make a difference? You’re right, we can’t fix it all, and we can’t save everyone – but we can do our best together. Many organizations adopting minor and seemingly insignificant sustainable business practices can make a more considerable impact than you might imagine.
Imperfect sustainability is better than none at all.
Sustainability, as defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is as follows:
“Sustainability is based on a simple principle: Everything that we need for our survival and well-being depends, either directly or indirectly, on our natural environment. To pursue sustainability is to create and maintain the conditions under which humans and nature can exist in productive harmony to support present and future generations.”
For those who might not be completely sold on this idea of sustainable business practices yet, take a look at this article written by Professor Kurt Haanaes for The Institute for Management Development. There is mountains of research supporting the need to go green and make an impact.
So, what does sustainability in business look like?
It is being conscious of the space we take up. Not for our influence to become timid, but instead for our influence to grow to better our communities and our environment. The commitment to sustainability brings awareness to the need for change and invites creative solutions to be birthed out of a motivation to be that change.
Sustainability goes far beyond greener choices or the consideration of negative societal burdens in decision-making. No, in fact, sustainability is all about lasting. It’s a durable, enduring, resilient, persistent positive impact. Going back to the definition of sustainability, we cannot create conditions that support future generations if these conditions don’t last.
My personal take on this is founded on a holistic approach. If your business decides to commit to sustainable business practices, it should infiltrate throughout the organization and permeate every decision. This does not mean that you quit cold turkey. If that is viable for your business, then great, but many do not have this luxury. Small steps add up.
Products and Services
Sustainable business practices begin with the very thing your business is in business to do. A critical sustainable business practice to implement is in the reconstruction of the product or service your company currently offers or in the development of a more sustainable line.
Consider the raw materials that are used to make the product your business sells or the mechanics of operating your service. Is the product made out of plastic that will not degrade for another 400 years? Could your service switch to mainly digital procedures to save 6 trees for 50,000 sheets of paper? Adjusting your product or service and creating future offerings that seek to limit the impact on the globe is a fundamental shift towards sustainable business.
Packaging is a place that any company can start with as an initial step. Changing to recycled packaging can still be effective for product protection and promotion, all while conserving the planet’s limited resources. Some companies don’t even provide packaging as customers are expected to bring their own reusable boxes and bags to collect and transport the products. Many coffee shops around the world, like Starbucks provide discounts to customers who bring their own travel mugs for their beverages. And remember, don’t just strive to negate the negative effects but contribute good effects too.
Consider where your business sources its inputs. Local is always recommended due to the fewer carbon emissions released in the transportation of the unfinished goods. This goes for all transportation and shipping in general. The lower the carbon footprint, the better. Multiple companies are instituting sustainable methods of business in this arena by investing in net zero carbon initiatives such as Netflix.
Also ponder if most of your employees have to commute long distances to reach the workplace everyday. A sustainable business practice that will help negate the negative impact of commuting might involve a rewards program for employees who choose public transportation, carpooling options, or electric vehicles.
Now, this may seem like a strange one. How can you foster sustainable business practices through software? Well, there are many ways your business can do this. Energy management software such as Watch Wire, not only helps to reduce overhead costs but decreases the potential harm that causes global warming. Companies can use software to power their cause whether that is through donor relations management, fundraising campaign management, events management, or online auctions.
As previously mentioned, location is vital when deliberating which sustainable business practices to establish. Location is a significant factor when it comes to transportation in the supply chain and everyday travel. Other recommended practices that affect the physical setting of the business are a cleaner, greener source of electricity, or energy-saving production equipment, limited use of harsh chemicals in cleaning, recycling, correct waste disposal, reusing production byproducts, efficient use of a smaller land area, or maintenance of surrounding natural ecosystems.
Conscious Consumerism is a fast-growing movement that is gaining members of society every day because of the destruction caused by corporations. Demand for businesses to find alternative solutions that do not compromise quality and convenience is exponentially accelerating. Some companies, however, are sustainable in word more than deed. Many seem to advertise with keywords like GMO-free, or natural, or eco-friendly, or recyclable just to make a dollar and never intend on actually shifting to sustainable business practices.
Promoting authentically sustainable organizations, products, and services will almost guarantee a business a competitive advantage. It will not be a long-term competitive advantage unless the firm is well and truly committed to reputable, effective, sustainable practices in all areas of business.
These are just some small steps a business like yours, can consider when introducing a new campaign for sustainable business practices. It’s not about what you say you do or what you hope or intend to do that makes a difference.
The difference is in your action.
Comment below on what sustainable business practices you already exercise and some you wish to cultivate.
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