What is a sustainable business?
We are all aware we need to act more sustainably. Be it buying fair trade, reducing our air miles, or consuming less meat, consumers are inundated with advice on how to cut our carbon footprint and support the transition to Net Zero. Yet what does sustainability mean for business? As companies seek to embrace more sustainable practices, the focus is on balancing the needs of people, planet and profit.
Acting sustainably is defined by the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” In the midst of a climate emergency, many relate to it purely in terms of managing a company’s environmental impact. However, sustainability encompasses three interlinked areas, or pillars which touch on every aspect of corporate life:
Environment – How does your business ensure it operates within the means of Earth’s natural resources and within our planetary boundaries? Begin by assessing the operation’s carbon footprint, waste and resource usage and overall impact on the environment. Then explore ways of operating in a more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective manner.
Economic – Businesses exist to make a profit yet to be sustainable, those profits shouldn’t be secured on the back of worker exploitation or environmental irresponsibility. Carefully monitor activities across the supply chain, particularly focusing on compliance, risk management and corporate governance.
Social – Sustainable businesses respect the rights of all people in the workforce, supply chain and community. Is everyone treated fairly? Complying with this pillar requires focus on areas like pay equality, working conditions and wellbeing.
All three pillars of sustainability are interdependent, like the legs of a stool. For instance, making environmental improvements like increasing recycling will also support the economic pillar by reducing costs. Conversely, treating workers poorly will impact on reputation and damage profits.
Operating sustainably requires business leaders to take a holistic view and ensure the values and ethos is shared across the company and its supply chain. Only then will they see the benefits for people planet and profit. By focusing on efficiency, building resilience, and accommodating the needs of all stakeholders, they future proof their operation and gain a competitive edge.
Success depends on building consensus across the business, ensuring everyone ha the knowledge and tools they need to make sustainable choices. At Wylde Connections, we apply our decades of expertise to help businesses navigate the road to sustainability. Our online mini-course Introduction to Sustainability gives staff the knowledge they need to get on board, whilst Wylde’s 6-week tutor-led programme, Sustainability Strategy: The Fundamentals helps you embrace a new way of working.
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