Last editedFeb 20213 min read
Sustainability is far more than just a buzzword, it’s a concept that should be on everyone’s minds, and something that we should aim to practice both in our personal and professional lives. As the climate crisis continues to pose a serious threat to our planet, it’s up to us to take action and do everything we can to create a safe, sustainable environment for future generations.
In recent years, sustainability has become a fundamental part of what makes a successful business.
What is sustainability?
Sustainability means living within our means in a way that doesn’t harm the environment, while ensuring that future generations are able to do so too, by being conscious of how we use natural resources.
A carbon footprint is a measure of carbon emissions as a result of the activities or lifestyle of a person or group. A large part of living and working sustainably is finding ways to reduce our carbon footprints.
What is sustainability in business?
In the world of business, environmental sustainability means following practices and strategies that help to reduce the carbon footprint of an organisation as whole.
A business that champions sustainability will consider the environmental and social impact of every decision it makes, from the resources and products it uses to the processes and practices it engages in. It means considering not just the short-term wins but also considering—and being accountable for—the long-term environmental impact of any decisions made as a business.
Of course, the main focus of a business is generally profit, but being a sustainable business means being equally mindful of not just your bottom line, but the planet’s too – and sustainability and profitability go hand-in-hand.
Why is sustainability in business so important?
There’s plenty we can do at an individual level, but change won’t occur without the commitment of businesses, as carbon emissions in business far exceed those at home.
Businesses are undeniably influential, and a major corporation championing environmental sustainability will not only encourage customers to be more mindful of their behaviour, it will also encourage governments to take more meaningful action.
Sustainability has also become a competitive tool for brands to appeal to the modern customer. Your business will be more attractive to potential customers and clients if you’re transparent about your footprint; it’s a huge part of corporate responsibility, and it’s a sign that you’re forward thinking and caring for your community.
How to be sustainable
There’s a lot to consider when devising a sustainable business strategy, and it’s important to avoid greenwashing and actually take significant action. These are some of the most crucial steps you can take:
First and foremost, you should think about how much waste your business creates. Everything from the paper you use to office supplies, energy, water, and food consumption will contribute to your carbon footprint.
This doesn’t mean you should stop providing food and drink to your employees, but being mindful of the products you buy and making conscious, ecological decisions will certainly have a positive impact. Aim to only use recyclable products, and where that isn’t possible, find creative ways to reuse items that would otherwise end up in landfill, or worse, the ocean.
Something as simple as making sure you turn the lights and heating off when you leave a room can make a big difference. It’s not just about saving the planet – you’ll be saving money too.
Think about how efficient your processes are, the energy you use in those processes, and the way you package and distribute your goods.
Ultimately, you should aim for zero landfill waste.
Go paper-free and use the cloud
Going paper-free is great for the environment, and can also make for a more efficient, digitally minded workplace. Consider using a cloud-based system for digital storage, and when you do need to work with paper, partner with an organization that actively offsets carbon emissions through sustainability programs.
The pandemic has brought forth new perspectives around the concept of working from home, and while some businesses may still be reluctant to continue remote working once it’s all said and done, it is worth noting that going office-free would make a massive difference to the carbon footprint of your organisation.
If you do have an office, you also need to be conscious of how your employees are getting there. Encourage green transport through programs like the Bike to Work Scheme or by incentivising the use of public transport.
Reduce work-related travel as much as possible – we’ve learned through the pandemic that it’s possible to do productive, collaborative work from afar, so flying across the globe for a couple hours of meetings is unnecessary, and should be avoided. Again, this won’t just be good for the environment, but good for your bottom line too, as you’ll reduce costs by cutting back on travel and office expenses.
Offset carbon emissions
Some businesses will struggle to completely reduce emissions – like airlines or energy companies – but there are still ways to offset the carbon you release into the atmosphere and shrink your footprint by participating in CO2 reduction projects. These are essentially a way to compensate your own emissions by contributing to sustainability projects outside of your core practices, with the goal of achieving net zero emissions.
This could include joining tree planting projects, clean water projects, or funding renewable energy production, among countless other programs. There are even travel booking companies that will offset emissions for any work-related travel you must undertake.
You don’t need to deal directly with energy or the environment to practice sustainability – absolutely any business in any industry can and should encourage sustainability because absolutely every business contributes in some way to the climate crisis.
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