It’s a business imperative: companies can no longer afford to separate themselves from the people, communities, and ecosystems around them. We are living in a world that is becoming vastly more complicated day by day. Whether that’s climate change, the racial injustices we’ve been seeing in the news, or the technology and privacy issues we’ve been subject to, it’s all getting blurrier and blurrier.
A society’s problem is just as much a problem for businesses as it is for the people. Therefore, doing well by giving back must no longer be part of a company’s CSR strategy; it ought to become a business imperative. No matter what industry a company operates in, each can play its role in bettering its surrounding communities. A great place for businesses to start is through environmental sustainability.
As the United Nations explains, environmental sustainability has to do with making business decisions and conducting activities that responsibly interact with our planet to avoid depleting the world’s natural resources and making sure that future generations have access to them to meet their needs. It’s true that a business, at the end of the day, must make money and focus on profits, but’s that can no longer come at the expense of the environment or the community’s needs.
We created a guide that highlights how businesses can minimize their negative impacts on the environment and promote environmental sustainability that would empower them to have an edge over the competition. Companies that consider the planet as one of their most important stakeholders will be better positioned to attract both customers and talent – who are increasingly demanding more accountability from businesses.
What is Environmental Sustainability?
Environmental sustainability has to do with the day-to-day decision-making and action steps that serve to protect the natural world. It focuses primarily on preserving the natural environment to support human life for the long term. This is a vitally important topic now as more and more people are waking up to realize the full impact that individuals and businesses have on the environment.
Environmental sustainability involves making responsible decisions that significantly minimize businesses’ carbon footprint. This particular area of sustainability does not only focus on reducing energy consumption, creating greener products, or reduce the amount of waste supply chains generate per time – it’s also about improving people’s quality of life while living in balance with Earth’s carrying capacity.
Environmental sustainability is currently getting a lot of attention from different governmental departments and the media. This is due to the number of ongoing research poured into assessing the overall impact of human activity on the natural environment.
Climate change concerns have raised environmental sustainability awareness, and more people are becoming environmentally conscious. This is indeed great news, but it is nothing but a red flag for any organization that is yet to address environmental matters. This means that if you’re going to stay in business, you have no choice but to embrace environmentally sustainable initiatives into your overall business strategy.
Businesses have found ways to either brush off, ignore, and steer attention away from the environmental implications of their actions and operations for too long. They’ve hidden under cheap excuses such as “it’ll be too costly” or “logistically unfeasible” to implement sustainability within their culture, supply chains, and overall business model.
Unfortunately for those businesses, these kinds of excuses are no longer viable. Customers are waking up – demanding greener practices, sustainable products, and healthier options. Employees are no longer just working for a paycheck – they want to work for companies whose values align with theirs, are committed to giving back, and integrate with their communities.
If businesses aren’t serving the immediate needs of their most significant stakeholder, Mother Earth, then they are ignoring the needs of their customers, employees, and community as well.
Businesses Can and Should Pave the Way Towards Environmental Sustainability
Businesses have always been expected to be at the forefront when it comes to leading in the area of environmental sustainability. This is mainly because they are known to be the most significant contributors to polluting the environment through the waste, greenhouse gases, and plastic they generate. Therefore, businesses are in an excellent position to lead the way and make the most powerful difference.
According to research conducted by TIME Magazine, most businesses have and continue to act with little concern or regard to the adverse impact they have on the environment. Several small and large organizations are profoundly guilty of engaging in unsustainable practices and polluting the environment unashamedly.
However, due to the awareness of the imminent danger of ignoring environmental sustainability, business leaders have made the U-turn the world so desperately demands. There is now an increasing number of organizations committed to minimizing their overall impact on the environment. While some companies are reacting to the market trends and consumers’ changing needs, others are actively leading the way.
Patagonia, for instance, ensures that environmentally sustainable practices are incrusted throughout their supply chains and that their products are made with recycled materials. Karun, an eyewear company based in Chile, makes high-end, stylish sunglasses out of recycled fishing nets and plastics from Patagonia.
Businesses should look far beyond the short-term gains of embracing environmental sustainability and focus on the long-term benefits that implementing sustainable practices can have to their bottom line. For the business world, it should no longer be whether profits come ahead of purpose or purpose ahead of profits, but about how purpose drives profits.
It makes a lot of sense for businesses to consider the immediate impact their actions have on the environment as well as the long-term implications of such a strategy. It might be worth it for the short-term, but what about for the long term? The fast fashion industry, for instance, which heavily pollutes the environment and whose marginal wins all benefit companies in the short term, is starting to realize that such a business model might no longer be feasible. It’s no longer a question of whether sustainable practices need to be ingrained within their operations, but how and how fast.
As Unilever’s former CEO Paul Polman said, “We have to bring this world back to sanity and put the greater good ahead of self-interest.“
The Advantages of Embracing Environmental Sustainability in Business
If you are somewhat skeptical about embracing environmental sustainability practices, these reasons should change your outlook.
Innovate More and Gain Competitive Advantage
Every business wants to enjoy a competitive advantage over its competitors. When you adopt innovative and creative solutions in order to reduce the environmental impact of your organization’s operations, you will gain that competitive advantage you seek.
Solving this problem can inspire new ideas among your employees as each individual deliberates on ways to minimize the negative impact of processes on the environment.
Moreover, as mentioned earlier, more and more people are drifting daily to businesses that embrace environmental sustainability. You will end up outselling your competition and become a brand name within a few years.
Boost Your Business Reputation and Image
Organizations that share and align with their customers’ values are much more likely to build trust and loyalty. The United Nations has pointed out that only 28 percent of individuals worldwide believe that businesses are doing enough for the planet and society.
This is why businesses should consider demonstrating absolute commitment to being more environmentally sustainable and responsible. As brands promote sustainable practices within their business, their reputation and image will significantly improve for both new and existing customers. This fosters better engagement with customers and, as Patagonia’s, Karun’s, and other companies have proven, will drive profits through the roof.
Improve Processes, Enhance Profitability, and Save More Money
It’s a common, yet powerful saying that ‘time is money’ in the business world. That is definitely true. According to numerous studies, organizations that adopt environmentally sustainable practices boost employee’s productivity and efficiency. The more productive employees are, the greater the output of an organization. Therefore, sustainable practices can boost a company’s bottom line.
At the same time, embracing environmental sustainability can empower companies to reduce operating costs. By changing to renewable energy sources, more efficient office lighting, and going paperless, for instance, businesses can save a great amount of money on a yearly basis. With more money being saved due to the better use of resources, risk mitigation, and considerable waste reduction, businesses can thrive both strategically and financially.
Try this simple strategy out: carry out an electricity consumption analysis in your business. The primary goal is to spot those areas where you may be overusing energy. When you address this issue that minimizes energy waste, the amount of money you will save due to this action alone would be phenomenal.
Grow Your Business by Preparing For the Future
Oftentimes, organizations that embrace environmental sustainability only choose to do business with other companies that are on the same page. Such a strategy sends a powerful message: we will only partner with brands committed to our same values and purpose. This helps companies to keep their reputation clean as well as to attract customers, building upon the feeling that customers are doing good by supporting a business that is committed to giving back.
Great places to start are for businesses to get their B-Corp Certification or to take small steps to make their supply chains greener and more eco-friendly. When it comes to promoting sustainable practices, even the smallest of improvements can have powerful impacts.
Now is the time for businesses to get off the sidelines and onto the arena. Countless research studies have shown that those companies that fail to embrace sustainable practices into their operations and commitments, will fail to attract talent, customers, and investors. Consequently, neglecting Mother Earth, the world’s biggest stakeholder, also means neglecting your company’s best interest.
Tying it All Together: Business as a Force for Good
Climate change is an existential crisis. The common saying that “we are all responsible for it” is only partially correct. If we were all guilty of creating this crisis, then who are we to blame?
It has been the greed and self-interest of certain decision-makers and certain organizations that, knowing what the consequences of their actions would be, yet decided to do it anyways that has led us to this situation. It’s been businesses who have created the most damage to our environment. The world rests on these organization’s hands to reverse the course of climate change and bring our planet back to sanity.
Yet, every organization that hopes to thrive for the long term should take environmental sustainability seriously. This will help improve both the environment as well as the carbon-heavy processes that a businesses’ operations usually require.
Therefore, it’s time for businesses to set us back on track, take the initiative, and inspire us to hope for a better future for all.