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WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE BUSINESS?

Sustainable businesses are those actively looking for ways reduce their negative impact on the environment, and if possible make a positive impact instead! These companies are finding ways to use less resources, generate less pollution, and recycle more!

They are making their products more efficiently, packaging them better, delivering them in the lowest impact ways and greening their work environments. They are reducing the amount of waste they generate and what waste they do make, ensuring it is disposed of responsibly – preferably recycling it!

They may even be measuring their overall environmental footprint, taking steps to reduce it where possible and then offsetting the rest. They encourage their employees to have a sustainable mindset and to look for ways to help green the company’s operations. They may have even made a commitment to sustainability part of their business strategy, set sustainability targets and be reporting on their impact in the same way companies have for years reported on their financial performance.  

FAQ

Everyone! Sustainability should come top down, but can also be driven bottom up by all employees. Whoever is driving change, it doesn’t matter. Of course, if the motivation for becoming more sustainable is coming from the CEO or founder of a business, change may come faster and hit less roadblocks. But, change can also come through one or more ‘sustainability champions’ within a company. As long as someone is asking the tough (but important) questions, that’s better than no-one. The best thing management can do is to empower those voices, act on their ideas and encourage others do to the same.  

The larger the company, the more likely it is to have a Sustainability Department or Division and have someone in management responsible for driving environmental initiatives. This is becoming increasingly common as corporate realise the importance of sustainability to all aspects of their business. 

Companies need to be taking steps to become more sustainable for a number of reasons. Firstly and most importantly, because the planet needs them to – urgently. The planet is running out of non-renewable resources and the earth’s temperature is rising. Because business is responsible for the vast majority of carbon emissions, it is imperative that it take responsibility for their reduction.

Many governments are putting into place incentives for them to do so in the form of taxes on carbon emissions and policies requiring them to phase out the use of non-sustainable materials such as polystyrene. Other reasons are more commercial. Customers are demanding that the companies they support with their spending be more environmentally responsible.

Investors in companies also want to know that their funding is not going towards activities that harm or degrade the environment. Larger companies are increasingly being required to have an ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) Policy and Reporting in order to access bank or investment funding. 

Often yes, sustainable businesses are more profitable! Not only do consumers prefer to buy from companies that are sustainablewhich will increase your top line revenue, but operating more sustainably will also often save a business money. Here are some of the ways that being more sustainable will help your business make more money.  

• Finding ways to reuse  

• Reducing the amount of anything a business uses will save it money whether it’s power, packaging, materials, office space, travel. This is key! 

• Recycling waste into your products 

Sustainable business is the future of business and as the demand for products and services made sustainably grows, so too will the number of jobs generated. Increasingly people also prefer to work for companies that care. They don’t want to be associated with companies that are making a negative impact on the world and instead want to know that their hard work is instead helping to make the world a better place.

Becoming a sustainable business will give your company a head start in recruiting as your company will be more attractive to job seeking candidates.

Any business model can be improved to be more sustainable, but some are fundamentally more environmentally friendly than others. Business models based on reuse systems or reusable products are very sustainable as they provide ways for people to consume less and reuse more. Some examples are Again Again’s reusable coffee cup programme and Better Packaging Co.’s reusable courier satchels.

Second hand marketplaces are another great example of enabling a ‘reuse economy’ because when we buy something pre-loved we don’t have to buy new.  Businesses that are part of the ‘sharing economy’ are also helping to shift the world towards long-term sustainability. Uber and AirBnB are probably the most famous players in this with their disruptive solutions to accommodation and transport. When we ‘share’ others’ things (in these cases, homes and cars respectively), we don’t need to acquire our own or have them built for us which in turn conserves the world’s resources.  

Companies making products out of waste or pollution are also operating a very sustainable business model. When Better Packaging Co. began making courier mailers by recycling ocean bound plastic pollutionthey reduced the need for the world to make mailers from virgin plastic (which is made from petroleum) and, at the same time, stopped plastic from entering our oceans. This is true ‘hero packaging’.  

It's hard enough without having to worry about sustainability, but embedding sustainable thinking in your business is worth it.

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