Why Businesses Should Care About Sustainability
Reasons why being a green business will not just help the environment but also your small company’s chances of success
Being a sustainable business can be loosely described as meeting three core requirements; to be environmentally friendly, considerate of society (specifically, those affected by your organisation’s existence), and profitable whilst being so. Rather than simply being a policy stored somewhere gathering dust, a sustainable business would have these values engrained into their daily decision making.
In austere times, achieving these goals of sustainability may seem a little far-fetched when some businesses are busy just trying to stay afloat. However, achieving the status of being ‘sustainable’ could be the difference between mere survival and success, opening doors to new business and improving your profit margin.
Curious? Then read on to find out just some of the reasons for becoming sustainable.
Because you may have to
As environmental problems have become global in scale, businesses have started to become aware of their own impacts and responsibilities. Government has been the impetus behind this, with ambitious targets being set to reduce energy use and cut carbon emissions. As recently as last year, the UK Prime Minister boldly stated he wanted to be part of the ‘greenest government ever’. It’s been the larger companies that have been the first to be targeted with legislation, and you will struggle to find a household name that doesn’t have sustainability targets built into their Corporate Social Responsibility programmes, if not a dedicated sustainability department.
The question then is, when, not if smaller businesses will be required to meet targets. It’s all very well waiting until the last minute, but approaching sustainability with a leader mindset can reap genuine rewards, whereas becoming a struggling follower may just result in unwanted hassle, with reluctant buy-in.
Improved company image
There is no doubt that by becoming a sustainable business, your company image will benefit. Currently, sustainability is a word prevalent in the world of larger multi-national companies, but less so amongst SMEs. So acting like a big company helps you to become perceived as a big company by clients and other stakeholders.
On a more local level, acting in a sustainable way could be from supporting employees volunteering their time to the local community, sponsoring a local event or donating to a charity. By making people aware of your efforts – known as ‘cause marketing’ – your brand will be remembered for positive reasons. This interaction with the community could also lead to further opportunity, from winning awards to new business. Feedback may also result in an improvement to your delivery of products or services.
Increased employee motivation and retention
Attracting and keeping good people is always difficult. But by being associated with a company that believes in doing good, becoming sustainable has been proven to aid employee motivation and morale, as well as attract new talent. After all, would you rather work for a soulless corporate machine, or a company that goes out of its way to engage with the community, and become more environmentally responsible?
Part of becoming sustainable is being environmentally friendly. By measuring your organisation’s environmental impact, soon opportunities for improvement will jump out. Part of becoming ‘green’ is using fewer resources in the first place. Upon review, you may find you could reduce paper use in the office significantly, or slash electricity use by switching off lights in unused rooms. Better planning, such as encouraging departments to share resources, may mean you can do without so many photocopiers, prints and scanners. Hundreds of ideas like these exist, and when established over the course of a year, company-wide, the cost savings can be huge.
Before you’ve even thought about making more money because of sustainability, the cost savings outlined above will make a real difference to your profit margins. A study from A.T Kearney (PDF) showed that companies committed to corporate sustainability practices are achieving above-average performance.
Winning new business is harder than ever. In some industries, differentiating yourselves from the competition can be hard work. Sustainability can be that difference, whilst providing the plethora of other advantages to your business already listed. In fact, larger companies have sustainability indexes where suppliers must have targets in place to work with them. For an example, take a look at IBM’s procurement rules. Similarly, those looking at getting work from the London 2012 Olympics would need to ensure they meet the requirements of their Sustainable Sourcing Code.
Don’t forget existing clients too. In these times, even loyal clients have to look around for the best deal. What are you doing to convince them that you are still the right choice? If your clients are associated with a sustainable, green thinking organisation like yours, it does their image no harm too.
Getting started on the green track
This article was written by The British Assessment Bureau, a certification body specialising in ISO management standards.