As more businesses realize they can prosper by doing good, they are incorporating sustainability into their business strategies.
In a recent McKinsey poll, 70% of participants indicated their organizations have formal sustainable governance in place.
But what does it mean in commercial terms to be "sustainable"?
In this article, we will discuss in depth about sustainability and what it means for your business:
- What is Sustainability?
- What Does "Sustainability" Mean in Business?
- How Sustainability Works?
- 3 Pillars of Sustainability
- How to Create a More Sustainable Business Strategy
- Conduct a sustainability assessment
- Set sustainability goals
- Engage stakeholders for sustainability
- Implement sustainability practices
- Monitor and evaluate sustainability progress
- Communicate sustainability efforts
- Continuously improve on sustainability
- Why Is Sustainability Important?
- Examples of Sustainability in Business
- Challenges Surrounding Business Sustainability
- Benefits of Business Sustainability
- How Can Deskera Assist You?
- Key Takeaways
- Related Articles
What is Sustainability?
Sustainability refers to the ability to maintain and preserve natural resources, ecological systems, and human well-being for the present and future generations. It involves meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It encompasses social, economic, and environmental factors and requires a balance between economic growth, social well-being, and the preservation of natural resources.
What Does "Sustainability" Mean in Business?
In business, sustainability refers to the ability of a company to operate in a manner that meets the economic, social, and environmental needs of the present while also ensuring its long-term viability. This includes practices such as reducing waste, conserving resources, and reducing the company's impact on the environment, as well as considering the well-being of employees, customers, and communities. Companies that prioritize sustainability often strive to balance short-term financial goals with long-term social and environmental considerations and are often seen as responsible corporate citizens. Sustainability in business can also lead to financial benefits, such as cost savings through resource efficiency, improved reputation, and customer loyalty, and access to new markets.
How Sustainability Works?
Sustainability seeks to create a harmonious balance between economic growth, social progress, and environmental protection.
It works by considering the long-term impacts of decisions and actions and taking steps to reduce negative environmental, social, and economic impacts while increasing positive ones. This can be achieved through a range of strategies, including reducing waste and pollution, conserving natural resources, promoting sustainable agriculture and forestry, investing in renewable energy, and creating more equitable and inclusive societies.
Sustainability can be practiced at various levels, from individuals and households to organizations and governments. It requires a systems approach, considering the interconnections and interdependence of economic, social, and environmental factors. Effective implementation of sustainability requires a multi-stakeholder approach, with governments, businesses, and individuals working together to create a more sustainable future.
3 Pillars of Sustainability
The three pillars of sustainability are:
- Economic sustainability: This pillar focuses on ensuring that the economy operates sustainably, providing for the needs of present and future generations. This involves balancing economic growth and development with environmental protection and social equality.
- Environmental sustainability: This pillar focuses on preserving natural resources and ecosystems for future generations, reducing waste and pollution, and mitigating the impacts of climate change.
- Social sustainability: This pillar focuses on promoting social justice, equality, and human well-being, including issues such as poverty, health, education, and community development. It recognizes that a sustainable future requires equitable access to resources and opportunities for all people.
These pillars are interdependent and must be considered together to achieve a sustainable future. For example, environmental sustainability is necessary for economic sustainability, as a degraded environment can harm economic productivity. Similarly, social sustainability is necessary for environmental sustainability, as social inequality can undermine efforts to protect the environment. By working together, these pillars can help ensure a sustainable future for all.
How to Create a More Sustainable Business Strategy
Creating a more sustainable business strategy involves integrating environmental, social, and economic considerations into all aspects of a company's operations. Here are some steps to consider:
Conduct a sustainability assessment
Conducting a sustainability assessment involves evaluating the current practices of a company and identifying areas for improvement in terms of sustainability. Here are the steps involved in running a sustainability assessment:
- Define scope: Determine the scope of the assessment, including the areas of the business and the sustainability topics that will be evaluated.
- Gather data: Collect data on the company's operations, including energy and water usage, waste generation, and environmental and social impacts.
- Identify areas for improvement: Analyze the data collected and identify areas where the company can improve its sustainability performance.
- Engage stakeholders: Seek input from employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders to gain a better understanding of their perspectives on the company's sustainability efforts.
- Develop an action plan: Based on the assessment results, develop an action plan to address the identified areas for improvement, including specific goals and strategies.
- Monitor and evaluate: Regularly monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the action plan and make changes as needed to ensure the company's sustainability performance continues to improve over time.
By conducting a sustainability assessment, companies can better understand their current sustainability performance and develop a roadmap for improving it over time.
Set sustainability goals
Setting sustainability goals involves establishing specific, measurable, and achievable targets for improving a company's operations' environmental and social impact. Here are steps to consider when setting sustainability goals:
- Identify priority areas: Based on the results of a sustainability assessment, identify the areas of the business that have the greatest environmental and social impact and require the most improvement.
- Define goals: Develop specific, measurable, and achievable goals that address the priority areas identified in step 1. For example, reducing carbon emissions by a certain percentage, increasing the use of renewable energy, or improving employee diversity and inclusion.
- Set time frames: Establish a timeline for achieving each goal, including intermediate milestones, to help track progress and identify areas for improvement.
- Allocate resources: Ensure that the necessary resources, including financial, human, and technical resources, are allocated to achieve each goal.
- Engage stakeholders: Seek the support and involvement of employees, customers, suppliers, and other stakeholders in achieving sustainability goals.
- Monitor and evaluate: Regularly monitor and evaluate progress towards achieving the sustainability goals and adjust the goals and strategies as needed to ensure continued progress.
By setting sustainability goals, companies can take a proactive approach to improve their environmental and social impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Engage stakeholders for sustainability
Engaging stakeholders is an important aspect of integrating sustainability into a business. Here are steps to consider when engaging stakeholders for sustainability:
- Identify stakeholders: Determine which groups and individuals have a stake in the company's sustainability performance, including employees, customers, suppliers, investors, communities, and regulators.
- Establish communication channels: Establish open and effective communication channels to engage with stakeholders, including regular updates on the company's sustainability performance and progress towards sustainability goals.
- Seek input and feedback: Encourage stakeholders to provide input and feedback on the company's sustainability efforts and initiatives. This can help identify new opportunities for improvement and ensure the company's sustainability initiatives are aligned with stakeholder priorities.
- Collaborate with stakeholders: Collaborate with stakeholders to identify and implement solutions to sustainability challenges, such as reducing waste, improving energy efficiency, and promoting sustainability in the supply chain.
- Report on sustainability: Regularly report on the company's sustainability performance, including progress towards sustainability goals, and share this information with stakeholders to demonstrate transparency and accountability.
By engaging stakeholders, companies can build trust, foster collaboration, and ensure their sustainability initiatives are aligned with the needs and priorities of the people and communities they impact.
Implement sustainability practices
Here are some practices organizations can implement to promote sustainability:
- Reduce energy consumption: Implement energy-efficient technologies and practices, such as using LED lighting, using power strips to turn off electronics when not in use, and using smart thermostats to regulate heating and cooling.
- Reduce waste: Implement a recycling program, compost food waste, switch to reusable products, and reduce packaging waste.
- Use sustainable transportation: Encourage employees to use public transportation, carpool, bike, or walk to work.
- Implement sustainable procurement: Purchase products made from recycled materials, locally sourced, and with minimal packaging.
- Water conservation: Implement water-saving practices, such as fixing leaks, installing low-flow showerheads and toilets, and using drought-resistant plants in landscaping.
- Use Renewable Energy: Invest in renewable energy sources like solar, wind, and hydro-power to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
- Employee engagement: Educate and engage employees on sustainability practices and encourage their involvement in initiatives to promote a more sustainable work environment.
Monitor and evaluate sustainability progress
Here are some steps organizations can follow to monitor and evaluate their sustainability progress:
- Set goals: Establish specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) sustainability goals to track progress.
- Collect data: Gather data on energy consumption, waste generation, water usage, transportation, procurement, and other sustainability metrics.
- Analyze data: Use data analysis tools to identify trends, track progress against goals, and identify areas for improvement.
- Report progress: Publish regular sustainability reports that detail progress and share with stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the public.
- Engage stakeholders: Encourage stakeholders to provide feedback on sustainability initiatives and use their insights to improve future efforts.
- Continuous improvement: Use the results of monitoring and evaluation to continuously improve sustainability practices and refine goals to ensure progress towards a more sustainable future.
- Use a third-party certification program: Consider using a third-party sustainability certification program such as LEED or B Corp to provide an independent assessment of sustainability efforts and help track progress over time.
Communicate sustainability efforts
Here are some steps organizations can follow to communicate their sustainability efforts effectively:
- Develop a clear message: Define a clear, concise message about the organization's sustainability efforts and goals.
- Use multiple channels: Communicate sustainability efforts through various channels, including the company's website, social media, email, and in-person events.
- Engage employees: Encourage employees to get involved and share their sustainability efforts and experiences, making them ambassadors for the company's sustainability efforts.
- Highlight successes: Share success stories and accomplishments to show progress and demonstrate the impact of sustainability efforts.
- Transparent reporting: Provide regular and transparent sustainability reports to stakeholders, including information on goals, progress, and challenges.
- Stakeholder engagement: Engage with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and the public, to gather feedback and address any concerns they may have.
- Continuously improve communication: Regularly review and improve communication efforts to ensure they effectively promote sustainability and engage stakeholders.
Continuously improve on sustainability
Here are some steps organizations can follow to improve their sustainability efforts continuously:
- Review and evaluate progress: Regularly review and evaluate progress against sustainability goals and identify areas for improvement.
- Set new goals: Continuously set new and ambitious sustainability goals to drive progress and ensure ongoing improvement.
- Incorporate stakeholder feedback: Regularly gather feedback from stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the public, and use it to improve sustainability practices.
- Stay informed: Stay informed of developments and best practices in sustainability to ensure that the organization's efforts are up-to-date and effective.
- Collaborate with others: Collaborate with other organizations, industry groups, and experts to share best practices and learn from each other.
- Encourage innovation: Encourage innovation by supporting research and development of new sustainability technologies and practices.
- Engage employees: Encourage and empower employees to get involved in sustainability initiatives and provide them with the resources and training they need to contribute effectively.
- Report progress publicly: Regularly report progress publicly to demonstrate accountability and transparency, and to engage stakeholders in the sustainability journey.
Why Is Sustainability Important?
Sustainability is important because it addresses several pressing global challenges affecting the environment and human well-being. Some reasons why sustainability is important to include:
- Environmental preservation: Sustainability helps to protect the planet's natural resources and ecosystems, ensuring they remain healthy for future generations.
- Climate change: Sustainability efforts help to mitigate the impacts of climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, conserving energy and water, and promoting renewable energy.
- Social well-being: Sustainability considers the social and economic impacts of business practices, striving for equitable outcomes for all stakeholders, including employees, communities, and future generations.
- Economic growth: Sustainability can drive economic growth by promoting innovation and resource efficiency, creating new business opportunities, and reducing costs through waste reduction and resource conservation.
- Long-term viability: Sustainability helps ensure the long-term viability of businesses, communities, and the planet by balancing economic, social, and environmental considerations.
By prioritizing sustainability, we can work towards creating a more just and equitable future while preserving the planet's health and well-being.
Examples of Sustainability in Business
There are many examples of sustainability in business, here are a few:
- Renewable energy: Companies use renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower to power their operations, reducing their carbon footprint and dependence on non-renewable energy sources.
- Resource efficiency: Businesses reduce waste by implementing practices such as recycling, composting, and reducing energy and water usage in their operations.
- Sustainable product design: Companies design environmentally friendly products that can be easily recycled or reused at the end of their life cycle.
- Supply chain management: Businesses implement sustainable practices in their supply chains, such as using sustainable raw materials, reducing transportation emissions, and ensuring fair labor practices.
- Corporate social responsibility (CSR): Companies engaging in philanthropic and community development initiatives, such as providing education and healthcare services and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
- Circular economy: Companies embrace the circular economy by designing products and processes that minimize waste and maximize resource efficiency, reducing the environmental impact of their operations.
These are just a few examples of how companies can integrate sustainability into their operations, and there are many more ways businesses can contribute to a more sustainable future.
Challenges Surrounding Business Sustainability
There are several challenges surrounding the implementation of business sustainability:
- Measuring and reporting sustainability performance: Companies often need help accurately measuring and reporting their sustainability performance due to a lack of standardization and consistency in metrics and reporting practices.
- Balancing short-term and long-term goals: Companies often face trade-offs between short-term financial performance and long-term sustainability goals. This can make it difficult for companies to prioritize sustainability initiatives and invest in sustainable practices.
- Engaging stakeholders: Companies face challenges in engaging stakeholders, including employees, customers, suppliers, and the public, in sustainability initiatives. This can include overcoming resistance to change, building trust, and communicating effectively.
- Addressing complex sustainability issues: Companies often face complex sustainability challenges, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality, that require a multi-stakeholder approach and systemic solutions.
- Lack of government support: Companies may need more supportive policies and regulations from governments to implement sustainability initiatives.
- Competition: Companies may be reluctant to embrace sustainability due to concerns about competitive disadvantage and the potential costs associated with sustainable practices.
To overcome these challenges, companies must be proactive in setting sustainability goals, engaging stakeholders, measuring and reporting performance, and collaborating with others to find solutions. They must also be willing to invest in sustainability initiatives, even if they may have short-term costs, in order to create long-term value for the company, its stakeholders, and the environment.
Benefits of Business Sustainability
There are several benefits to businesses that embrace sustainability:
- Increased competitiveness: Companies that adopt sustainable practices can gain a competitive advantage by improving their reputation, attracting and retaining customers and employees, and reducing operational costs.
- Improved financial performance: Companies prioritizing sustainability can benefit from cost savings, increased efficiency, and access to new markets and investment opportunities.
- Enhanced brand reputation: Companies that are known for their sustainability efforts can improve their brand image, attract and retain customers, and increase customer loyalty.
- Increased employee engagement and retention: Companies prioritizing sustainability can foster a positive workplace culture, improve employee morale, and increase employee retention.
- Better risk management: Companies that embrace sustainability can reduce the risks associated with environmental and social issues, such as climate change, resource depletion, and social and political instability.
- Increased stakeholder engagement: Companies prioritizing sustainability can enhance relationships with stakeholders, including customers, employees, suppliers, and investors, and build trust and credibility.
- Positive impact on society and the environment: Companies embracing sustainability can positively impact society and the environment by reducing waste and emissions, conserving natural resources, and promoting social and environmental justice.
By embracing sustainability, companies can create long-term value for shareholders, customers, employees, communities, and the environment. It can also help to address some of the world's most pressing environmental and social challenges, such as climate change, poverty, and inequality.
How Can Deskera Assist You?
Marketing sustainability is not a one-man’s job; it takes a lot of work. To ace your marketing, you need a team in place to come up with out-of-the-box ideas and software like Deskera that can help you execute it right—wondering why Deskera would make the best pick for you?
Deskera CRM and Deskera CRM Plus are the tools you need to make that world of a difference from the way you process your sales, customers, and orders. The cherry on the top, Deskera, also has a set of some amazing landing page templates that will help you create yours. To learn more, take a look at this quick walkthrough.
- The capacity to support or continue a process over time is known as sustainability.
- Economic, environmental, and social sustainability are the three main principles that are frequently separated.
- Governments and corporations have committed to pursuing sustainable objectives like lowering their environmental footprints and preserving resources.
- Investments in sustainability also referred to as "green investments," are being actively embraced by some investors.
- Some businesses have been charged with "green-washing," the act of deceiving the public to make a company appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is.
As consumers' awareness of environmental issues grows, more firms are looking for ways to lessen their negative effects on the environment and their local communities. Companies can promote their social contributions through sustainability policies and yet draw in customers.