Sustainability in business is critical for brand survival as consumers want brands who share their values. For small and midsize businesses - which have no margin for error - it’s especially critical.
Many businesses today recognize the importance of sustainability and have made it a priority. But actually putting it into practice isn’t easy. Sustainability can’t simply be added to existing strategies and processes. Businesses need to embed sustainability throughout their organization in order to achieve real results.
An Oxford Economics survey found that two-thirds of consumer products company executives believe a sustainable supply chain is a competitive differentiator. The same percentage also said that having a clear purpose is critical to their company’s long-term success.
At the same time, they acknowledge the challenges. While a growing number of customers are looking for brands that practice sustainability. they also want low prices, speed, and convenience, the study found.
How can a company overcome the obstacles and become a sustainable business?
3 ways to embed sustainability across the organization
The impact sustainability has on your company’s brand and work culture can open the door to new opportunities and long-term growth. But achieving those benefits requires making some fundamental changes to planning, design, manufacturing and maintenance processes.
It starts with incorporating sustainability into your business goals and corporate mission by addressing environmental and social impacts of your processes. This may require an analysis of current objectives to uncover gaps.
Corporate stakeholders need to be on board, with an understanding that sustainability is not just a compliance requirement, but a means of achieving competitive advantage.
Dame Anita Roddick, the founder of beauty supply company The Body Shop, once said, “Social and environmental dimensions are woven into the fabric of the company itself. They are neither first nor last among our objectives, but an ongoing part of everything we do.”
Here are three way to implement sustainable business practices:
- Explore new ways to collect and interpret data
- Be transparent in production and distribution processes
- Improve employee engagement
Closed-loop production systems drive sustainability across the entire supply chain by eliminating waste and clearing the path for a circular economy.
Get a clear view in order to take action
Embedding sustainability throughout an organization requires visibility into performance metrics like resource usage. Advanced analytics offer companies a way to gain this insight.
“By collecting and analyzing data on a wide range of sustainability-related factors—including energy and resource use, greenhouse gas emissions, and supply chain performance—companies can generate the deep insights they need to guide their sustainability-related initiatives and improve their overall resource efficiency,” Deloitte researchers said in report on sustainability analytics.
According to Deloitte, companies can leverage these insights for more efficient use of resources that protects them from price and supply volatility.
Advanced analytics also can help to spot risks in environmental impact and labor practices, so that a company can take action and mitigate them.
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Embed sustainability through transparency
Today’s customers appreciate a quality product, but 86% of consumers look for authenticity in the brands they choose to support. They won’t tolerate mere lip service to sustainability or “greenwashing.”
A data-driven approach can provide a way to demonstrate sustainable business practices to customers, which supports growth.
Partners and regulators also are looking for proof of sustainability. Moreover, sharing data such as water use, carbon emissions estimates, and labor information with partners, regulators, and suppliers can promote collaboration and drive sustainability throughout an industry.
Buyers look for brands that share their values by making sustainable products, which is just one reason why businesses need an ethical supply chain.
Foster engaged employees
Corporate sustainability isn’t possible without the emotional investment of your employees.
Feeling like work serves a higher purpose – like sustainability – builds engagement. This is especially true for Millennials and Gen Zers, many of who want to work for a company that shares their values and stands for environmental and/or social causes.
Organizations can promote employee engagement with a strong learning environment, prioritizing development, and encouraging innovation.
Programs like hosting employee-led workshops, inviting guest speakers, scheduling self-learning time, and reaching out for one-on-one manager meetings with employees all foster an inclusive, productive work environment to support corporate sustainability goals.
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Real benefits now, lasting impact
The very premise of sustainability is to implement strategies that create positive, lasting results without compromising the quality of life for future generations.
As organizations continue to recognize their role in moving modern-day commerce forward with innovations in economic, environmental, and societal ways, the immediate benefits will encourage long-term results for tomorrow’s customers.