Tips and Tricks on Business Sustainability [Extended Guide]

Tips and Tricks on Business Sustainability [Extended Guide]

Finding the optimal business model is an uneasy task. Although there are many directions our company strategy can take, there is one thing we all have to agree upon: the business must endure. Thinking smart and implementing business sustainability practices can aid your company in three focal points: environmental, social, and financial. 

The world has witnessed a significant shift in sustainable investing. Nowadays, it’s common to find a ‘sustainable wardrobe’ tag on clothing brands. The market has at last recognized customers’ care on the matter of sustainability. It seems that the changes to our climate have brought us all a bit closer together. Our goal is unified: keep our planet healthier for us and future generations. 

Yet, are all efforts genuine? Corporate greenwashing, or tricks for deceiving the public that the business is environmentally friendly, has become relatively sophisticated over the years. It might be challenging to set apart false efforts, from an honest business approach that tackles the problem at its root. That’s why we are stepping up the game. Starting with the small efforts, we will build up our case towards the need to disrupt the whole existing economic system. 

Because our guide is on a longer side, here’s a handy table of contents:

Business Sustainability: Why Do We Care?
Little things we can do to make our business sustainable
1. Rethink Your Employees’ Habits and Adapt the Office Space
2. How Much Do You Travel?
3. Choose Your Suppliers With Care
4. Your Greener Online Presence – Web Hosting and Cloud Computing
5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!
Business Sustainability 2.0: The circular economy!

Business sustainability why do we care

Business Sustainability: Why Do We Care?

The business sustainability concept is much more than a recent buzzword. The evidence of the negative human impact on the environment has changed consumers’ behavior. In the era of plenty, customers have extensive options for similar products for just anything they would like to purchase. By becoming more environmentally conscious, consumers prioritize companies that put effort into conducting their business in a more planet-friendly manner. It means that your audiences will likely cherish and value going green, as it is important for them too. But does it end there?

Well, we can rightly say that we’ve only scratched the surface! Each honest individual effort on conducting sustainable business practices contributes to a better, healthier life for us and future generations. But what’s also essential for your company is that improving environmental conditions generates profit when done correctly. Of course, it is about the product you offer, but also about the way your company operates! The key reasons why you should consider green operating are:

  • Becoming more efficient
  • Improving brand value and reputation
  • Providing a platform for innovation
  • Help attract and retain staff
  • Cutting costs
  • Strengthen stakeholders’ relations

As for now, the idea sounds lovely – all that is left to do is learn how to achieve it!

Little things we can do to make our business sustainable

If improving business sustainability sounds like too much of a job for you – you might be completely wrong. To prove our viewpoint, we will share advice that is not so difficult to implement! The best part is that slight changes in our behavior have a significant impact on our environment. So here’s our actionable advice for kickstarting a positive change:

1. Rethink Your Employees’ Habits and Adapt the Office Space

A reflective glare into our office space can provide valuable insight into the possibilities for waste reduction. By reducing employee habits when it comes to single-use products, companies can reduce their environmental footprint simultaneously. For example, our efficiency on workdays is usually run on caffeine. Single-cup coffee makers are the star in any office’s kitchen space. Hundreds and hundreds of those cups have their short term glory, and afterwards are being thrown away. You can start by encouraging people to bring reusable cups and refillable water bottles. Transitioning to hand dryers rather than paper towels, and possibly composting your waste is a promising start. 

When it comes to waste, it is wise to start by setting up a three-bin system:

  1. Landfill, recycling, and paper.
  2. Check the bin regularly to identify the biggest waste and possibly add an additional bin for that waste exclusively.
  3. Don’t forget to involve everyone.

This system can serve as a noble shared goal that can bring your employees closer together.

Sustainable business travel

2. How Much Do You Travel?

When asking this question, we will turn a blind eye to traveling for pleasure. Travel, especially flying, is a cash drain for any business. Not to mention the more important aspect – it’s a major source of pollution. Rationalizing this aspect is beneficial in many ways. We would not advocate for the complete lack of business travel but definitely search for more efficient options. Maybe not every trip is essential, which is a good place to start. This way, you might be able to book more direct flights rather than flights with layovers. The latter is more economical, but at the much greater costs as the emissions are released primarily during takeover and landing. 

As driving during rush hour can increase travel time, fuel usage and stress, it is smart to consider flexible working hours for your business. Providing the space to store bikes and e-scooters is another great way to make your business more sustainable. 

Improving environmental conditions generates profit when done correctly

Did you know that great ideas are emerging from the tech sector? The popular travel-organising app TripIt now shows you the carbon emissions for your air travel and provides ideas on how to reduce or offset the impact like purchasing carbon credits or planting trees.

Trying to promote car sharing and possibly choosing the most energy-efficient vehicles for business use is an invaluable decision. 

Here’s another thing that travelers can do to protect the environment: say “no” to paper receipts. According to nonprofit Green America, up to 10 million trees, and 21 billion gallons of water, are used every year to create receipts in the U.S. alone. This leads to generating 686 million pounds of waste, and 12 billion pounds of CO2, equivalent to the carbon released by one million cars on the road.

Choose your suppliers with care to achieve business sustainability

3. Choose Your Suppliers With Care

The companies we run are only a part of the bigger ecosystem, and there – everything is intertwined! Our customers, competition, as well as our supply chain, define and reshape our business. That’s why we shouldn’t approach the company as an isolated entity. One of the ways to make your company greener is choosing the right brands to cooperate with. By opting for products and services that show a commitment to business sustainability, you extend the level of impact outside of your own company.

The companies we run are only a part of the bigger ecosystem, and there – everything is intertwined!

For example, think about the products we use the most – office material. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies that a paper comes from responsibly sourced wood fibre, earning the FSC label. That’s a great start! Choosing Fairtrade products helps support workers’ rights and small producers in local communities. Don’t be afraid to ask about the suppliers’ standards on environmental and social issues.  Suppose the supplier uses a certified environmental management system (EMS) such as ISO 14001 to assess its environmental impacts. This signalizes that they likely share the idea for a sustainable business with you.

Your greener online presence web hosting and cloud computing for business sustainability

4. Your Greener Online Presence – Web Hosting and Cloud Computing

When thinking about business sustainability, it’s easy to forget about our website! Yet, the servers for web hostings do have extensive energy usage, which significantly affects our environment’s total impact. Surprisingly, the web hosting industry impacts our environment pretty badly. That said, we can try to find ways to compensate for our website’s negative effect. Some web providers aim to reduce their energy consumption by using innovative cooling techniques to decrease their servers’ temperature. Green web hostings such as Green Geeks, InMotion, or A2 Hosting are rising in popularity because of their sustainable business models. 

Cloud computing can reduce travel costs, enable us to work remotely, and prevent us from printing various documents to have them close by.

There’s no better feeling than being able to access and share all of your information just anywhere! It can reduce travel costs, enable us to work remotely, and prevent us from printing various documents to have them close by. Cloud computing formats such as  Google Apps, Apple iCloud, and Microsoft Office 365 are a wise idea to make your business more practical. And the best part: as your company information is on a cloud, there is no need to purchase and maintain expensive, power-intensive servers!

Reduce reuse recycle

5. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Did you know that electric and electronic waste is the fastest growing waste in the world? By 2030, the global total electronic waste is likely to swell to 74.7 million tonnes. As humans, we are guilty of this one. We seem to replace our electronic devices at a higher speed, generally not caring to repair the old ones. Yet, there are some things that business owners can do to aid the problem. When replacing electrical equipment, it does not mean that the old one should be disposed of in the bin. A donation of that equipment to schools or charities provides a tremendous social impact.

The great news is: you can recycle e-waste! Before you discard it in the bin, look for alternatives. Computer manufacturers such as Dell and HP have technology recycling programs, allowing credit for trade-ins on used equipment and donation programs for charities. Moreover, eBay for Charity enables the listing of used items on eBay with the proceeds going to nonprofits or charities.

Did you know that electric and electronic waste is the fastest growing waste in the world?

When it comes to reducing your energy and water usage, some slight adaptations could go a long way. Try to keep hot water at the recommended 60ºC to avoid unnecessary mixing with cold. Regularly check for any leaks and think about using low-flow showerheads, tap aerators, and half flush toilets. Switch to the highest efficiency light bulbs, appliances, and equipment and turn all devices off when they’re not in use.

Business sustainability 2.0 the circular economy

Business Sustainability 2.0: The circular economy!

The market continues to shift, seemingly allowing for more sustainable options. Now we can eat sustainable food, stay in sustainable hotels or use sustainable cosmetics. Yet, our world is becoming less, not more sustainable. Scientists believe that we have overshot the Earth’s boundaries regarding climate change, biodiversity loss, and biogeochemical flows. Yes, little things we can do are a great start. But we must ask – can we contribute to solving the root of the problem?

The next phase of business sustainability asks for the market transformation while abandoning the idea that the environment is a limitless source of materials and a sink for waste. Businesses do not wish to experience logistic disruptions due to increased storm severity, resource availability, risk of emissions and price volatility, need to optimize supply chain logistics. Did you know that companies such as  Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Cargill, and General Mills have all faced threats to supply chains due to decreased water availability, a once-plentiful resource? For all of this, we need a regenerative economy. Here’s how to achieve it.

New operating concepts

Companies are abandoning linear models. Created, used, and disposed products are no longer an aim. Instead, the economy we aim to reach is circular. Products are designed, used and then either restored or reprocessed to recover energy or repetitive material use. The aim is to keep the products at their highest utility and value at all times of their life cycle. The realization that there will be a low supply of some raw materials in the future leads businesses to change tactics. Now product design focuses on reuse and product recovery instead of disposal.

New methods of transparency

Greenwashing will get more difficult to conduct with the need to disclose numerous sustainability indicators through established standards. Global Reporting Initiative and Carbon Disclosure Project are just some of the globally recognized standards introduced to regulate greenwashing practices. But transparency goes further as companies face increasing demands for data under the eye of activists, investors, suppliers, buyers, employees, and customers. The companies investigate their supply chain and reveal the workers’ treatment or any other misconduct.

New methods of transparency for sustainable businesses

New concepts of a business purpose

Business practice and education are welcoming new ideas about what a corporate purpose should be. One type of innovation is benefit corporations, which seeks to combine a wider array of objectives than simply profits. The combined goals affect the organizational levels, governance and legal statements of purpose. This way,  capitalistic behaviour is becoming more humane and addresses social and environmental issues, rather than just profit.

New ideas for consumption 

Realizing the problem with overbuying and waste has incentivised companies such as Patagonia to take action. Take Patagonia as an example. The company encourages customers to buy used products on eBay before going to the store to buy new from them. Other companies decided to end the reckless shopping problem we all face during Black Friday. The outdoor lifestyle retailer Recreational Equipment (REI) closes its 149 stores on Black Friday as part of its “#OptOutside” program. Business recognising the hazard of overconsumption is definitely on the rise!

New methodologies for measuring wealth 

The economic models we studied are not entirely appropriate for the world we live in today. We hear more about conscious and regenerative capitalism. But what is it really? The aim is to care about all the stakeholders and create self-organizing, naturally self-maintaining, and highly adaptive systems. GDP, one of the critical metrics for measuring wealth, is now being questioned. It fails to distinguish financial transactions that aid the wellbeing of our country and those which damage it. To provide the alternative, Nobel laureates Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen made a report on GDP flaws. They recommended a shift in economic emphasis. Instead of focusing on the production of goods, the laureates introduced broader and more overall wellbeing measures. The suggested categories included health, education, security, and sustainability.

The economic models we studied are not entirely appropriate for the world we live in today.

If there’s anything we learned so far, it’s that even slight changes in our behavior can do much for our planet and our community. It’s a great start of a lifelong journey. So, let’s not waste any more time: business space is greening up – hop on that train and contribute yourself. 

Now, tell us: what are your business sustainability practices you are proud of?

Author:

Jovana Rackovic

Corporate finance graduate. Not rarely escapes from the world of numbers and embraces fine art, fantasy novels, and thrilling narratives. Still firmly believes ‘Wingardium leviosa’ works.

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