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What Is Sustainability in Business?

What Is Sustainability in Business?

An increasing number of companies are incorporating sustainability into their business models, realizing that they can make money while also doing good. Consumer expectations regarding transparency and corporate responsibility are becoming prevalent, so executives now consider sustainability necessary to remain competitive.

A sustainable business is one that balances profitability, social commitment, and concern for the environment. Making your business more sustainable means looking at what you do and how it can impact the environment. Even small changes can make a big difference.

Companies that focus on sustainability take a broad range of environmental, economic, and social factors into account when making business decisions. They monitor the impact of their operations so that short-term profit does not compromise the needs of future generations.

The core idea is to generate profit without draining the planet of its resources and minimizing negative effects on the environment and society as a whole.

The term “Triple Bottom Line” refers to the three categories of factors that sustainable businesses need to consider: environmental, social, and economic.

The environmental category includes the emissions and waste that result from production, the footprint of the supply chain, and the end of life impact. The economic category includes the overhead cost, the potential for scalability, market demand, and profitability. The social category includes impact on society as a whole, on local communities directly affected, as well as the well-being of employees.

There are further aspects to consider. These are just some examples of the most important ones.

Some argue that any business is harmful to the environment in some way. That’s why we need to look at sustainability as a long-term goal and constantly look for new ways to succeed in the modern business world while protecting the planet.

What Are Some Sustainability Issues Businesses Face?

While sustainability can provide businesses with numerous benefits, it also introduces a completely new set of challenges.

The Cost of Implementing Changes

Companies need to remain profitable to survive and grow. Although sustainability is all about doing more with less, it does require companies to make some changes in their operations that can be costly.

Smaller companies with limited budgets can start with changes that pay off relatively quickly, like switching to energy-efficient lighting. They’ll be able to recover the cost of their investment through lower electricity bills.

They can also get help through government programs meant to help small businesses become more sustainable.

The Time Required to Implement Changes

Making these changes also takes time. In some cases, you may even have to temporarily shut down operations. But, as we mentioned before, sustainability should be regarded as a long-term goal. You don’t have to do everything at once.

If the financial and time investment could threaten your company’s survival, look at other options that better align with your current business model.

Another way to expedite the process is to put together a team that handles the implications of this transition.

Employee Engagement

When you make a concerted effort to decrease your carbon footprint and make your company more sustainable, you want your staff to be on board and assist you in accomplishing those goals. However, when your team appears disinterested in facilitating these adjustments, it can be very frustrating.

The most effective strategy to engage your staff in this transition is to provide them with avenues for engagement. By raising awareness around the necessity and benefits of sustainable business practices, you can foster an eco-friendly culture among your employees. Providing them with the tools to actively participate is another great way to instill a sense of responsibility and involvement.

Choosing the Right Initiatives for Your Business

Every company is different, so it goes without saying that not all initiatives will be suitable for your business model. Some will fit perfectly with little effort, others will take more time, and some won’t work at all.

Begin with simple but important adjustments and work your way up to more difficult-to-implement ones as you gain more knowledge and experience. For example, you can switch to recycling balers that make waste collection, compression, and recycling much easier. There are many different machines available on the market for waste management. So, check your options.  It’s an affordable and easy to implement initiative that can also serve as a way to get your employees to become more mindful of the waste they produce and where this waste ends up.

Keeping up with Sustainability Trends

As technology evolves and our knowledge expands, so do sustainable business practices. However, smaller businesses with limited budgets can’t afford to keep making changes and stay current.

That’s ok. You don’t have to. Some trends will be beneficial and allow you to implement initiatives that you previously could not afford, while others will be incompatible with the current state of your business. You should keep a close eye on sustainability trends, but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. Choose the practices that best suit your business.

Here, too, you can profit from having a team that conducts research for you and keeps you informed. Together you can identify the trends that are most likely to result in positive outcomes for your organization.

Limited Support from Vendors

Part of making your business more sustainable is working with vendors that adhere to the same standards. But that is not always easy to accomplish. You can start by discussing sustainability with your vendors and showing them how it can be good both for business and the environment. You can tell them about your experience making your business more sustainable, how it’s benefitted you, challenges you’ve encountered, and how you’ve managed to overcome them.

It’s possible that some of our vendors will not want to make any changes, in which case you will need to look for others that are better aligned with the direction you want to go.

Advertising Sustainability

Advertising sustainability can be quite tricky. With all the greenwashing going around, today’s consumers have become a lot more skeptical, and as a result, they demand a lot more transparency from companies that market themselves as sustainable.

The best thing you can do in this situation is be straightforward with your customers. Make your green goals public and provide regular updates with evidence to demonstrate your commitment is genuine.


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by Harvey Carr // Harvey Carr is a contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.