Why Businesses Must Embrace Sustainability & The Risks Of Not Being Sustainable

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One pledge dominates the corporate strategy of companies in every industry across the globe – and it’s nothing to do with profit.

With warnings about the survival of our planet dominating the headlines and shaping political agendas, all modern businesses are acutely aware of the need to prove their commitment to sustainability.

Key Points:

  • Consumers, stakeholders and the government are now holding businesses to account on sustainability
  • Businesses must prove they are sustainable to protect their business and reputation
  • Information and training are available to help businesses meet sustainability demands

Why businesses must embrace sustainability

Where a demonstration of recycling targets used to suffice and the environment was a “nice to have” afterthought, businesses are now under increasing pressure to make their processes more efficient, choosing and using resources more wisely.

Signs of the challenges we face in protecting the environment are all around us. Air and water pollution, species becoming endangered, the frequency of extreme weather conditions. But what has this got to do with business?

Businesses face a host of challenges when it comes to sustainability. But the risks of ignoring such challenges are far greater, particularly when it comes to reputation and environment-related legislation.

1#. Supply chains

Boasting that your business hits recycling targets won’t cut the mustard if your sourcing of raw materials is found to be wasteful or unethical. Businesses must move away from outdated practices and re-examine every stage of production. Transparency and traceability are key in maintaining credibility with consumers.

#2. Reducing carbon emissions

All businesses require energy to operate, such as the use of water, gas and electricity in office buildings, warehouses and factories, or fuel for vehicles.

But activities that cause unnecessarily high levels of pollution or waste are no longer tolerated. Every business must show it is doing all it possibly can to reduce its carbon footprint, minimise harm to the environment and protect natural resources.

One of the government’s targets is to reach net zero by 2050, reducing carbon emissions down across the UK. The net zero target is one of the greatest challenges for businesses. Every process from packaging to transport must be evaluated and improved to reduce carbon emissions.

#3. Staff support

It’s no good having ambitious recycling targets without the support of your employees. Internal communications activities are essential to set the level of expectation for every member of staff. Colleagues should be encouraged to take both individual and group action to make the business more sustainable. Without their support, it will be impossible to meet sustainability targets.

#4. Innovation

New ideas and processes can often lead to greater efficiency in a business. Innovation is a key element in achieving sustainability goals, but can also prove costly, particularly in the research and development phase. But businesses must show they are future-facing and strike a balance between maintaining profits and sustainability.

#5. Benefiting the environment

In addition to reducing waste, emissions and unethical behaviour, a business is also increasingly expected to demonstrate action that has a positive impact on the environment. This can involve activities such as planting trees or creating community gardens or food cooperatives.

Listen to our training experts discuss how your business can become more sustainable, in our green skills podcast

What are the risks of not being sustainable?

So we’ve already looked at some of the challenges businesses face when it comes to sustainability. But can’t they just add some waffle about sustainability in their corporate social policy and leave it at that?

Customers, particularly the younger generation, care greatly about the environmental impact of their consumer choices. They want to feel reassured that a company is doing the best it can to operate sustainably. Any company found to be disingenuous or guilty of greenwashing could find themselves in hot water.

Companies that have made false or misleading claims about their sustainability commitments have been named and shamed on the internet and social media, which have harmed their reputations.

For example, while bragging about the low emissions and eco-friendly features of its vehicles, Volkswagen admitted to cheating emission tests.

Tips to make your business more sustainable

#1. Review your processes

By measuring your emissions, you will know exactly how much carbon your business is putting into the atmosphere. Evaluate every stage of production to make it more efficient – this will not only reduce emissions and minimise waste but could ultimately cut costs by streamlining processes.

#2. Switch to green energy

According to the United Nations (UN), three quarters of our greenhouse gas emissions currently come from the energy sector.

Using a green supplier such as Octopus or Good Energy could help your business become more sustainable. But you could also implement further measures such as solar panels on buildings or motion sensor LED lighting.

#3. Get your employees on board

Giving your employees – and stakeholders – sustainability goals will encourage good behaviours such as reducing waste, but can also improve staff morale and their loyalty to the business. Taking action together for the benefit of the environment is a very positive internal communications message within any business.

#4. Train your team to be more sustainable

If you’re struggling to reach sustainability targets or need more information on laws and regulations concerning businesses and the environment, TSW Training is here to help.

Our range of environmental and sustainability training courses can give your business the expertise it needs to reduce its carbon emissions and support your journey towards net zero and green transition.

Picture of Matthew Channell
Matthew Channell
Matthew is TSW Training’s Commercial Director. He writes about performance focussed learning, leadership, and management approaches that have real-world, sustainable impact.
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