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Elevate Sustainability

Four Tips to Elevate ‘Sustainability’ From Buzzword to Strategy

by Dustin Abad on and last update on May 25, 2020

Undoubtedly, everyone has felt and witnessed the significant shift towards sustainability. Marked by technological advancements, this shift has enabled green lifestyles as well as social movements forwarding the worthy cause. In 2019, one of the most notable individuals who championed sustainability is Greta Thunberg, who has started an ‘effect’ inspiring the youth in particular to practice sustainability and people in general to reduce their carbon emissions. The world’s largest food company, Nestle, has also committed to ensuring all its  companies’ packaging is recyclable or reusable by 2025. Given these examples, we acknowledge that the shift goes above and beyond the individual level as it also affects companies, among other groups.

As a response to the global movement towards sustainability, many companies have promised commitment to the cause. Some companies already made changes to certain aspects of their business in order to capture a more sustainable business model. While there are companies that found success in their pursuit of sustainability, there are others that struggle from turning their commitment into action. There is increasing pressure on higher-level executives and board members to make fool-proof decisions championing sustainability as a result. However, it does not have to be difficult. In this article, we shall explore four tips to transform your company’s commitment for sustainability into an actual coherent and potent strategy.

  1. Assess your possible approach

It’s important that companies conduct an assessment of their current efforts towards sustainability. This ensures that the strategy to be espoused is bespoke to each individual company. Companies can adopt tried-and-tested methods that have been successfully executed by others, but creating a more sustainable company does not have a one-size-fits-all solution. While most companies would probably have similar sustainability objectives and goals, the process of reaching those goals can vary greatly with each company. Companies must approach sustainability in a way that is truly theirs. In the same way that marketing campaigns should be on-brand, a company’s sustainability strategy should also be emblematic of its identity and personality.

  1. Link profit and purpose

With the increasing awareness regarding sustainability, there are also growing expectations for companies to take action. This provides a unique problem for company executives to make tough calls balancing profitability and sustainability. As more CEOs recognize the urgency of the cause, they now also recognize the need to align sustainability strategies with core business strategies and operations. Thus, the purpose does not overtake nor overshadow the usual business operations; they are simply integrated and help elevate the business model. A good example of this is how Nike now utilizes recycled material for 75% of its shoes and apparel. This, in turn, poses a challenge for businesses to constantly innovate.

  1. Involve and engage everyone

Involving and engaging everyone in the company allows employees to situate the role they have in the road towards sustainability. Phil Cumming, the senior sustainability manager of Marks & Spencer, posits that the idea of sustainability should permeate all throughout the organization. A clear way of doing this is through making sustainable practices relevant to everyone’s jobs. It begins with allowing everyone to define what sustainability means and involving them in transforming those definitions into actual goals. In turn, the company gains a clear direction towards sustainability and can hopefully build a culture that values sustainability. Remember that a truly sustainable company is a company with employees who are true advocates of the cause.

  1. Start small and simple

           The last tip is reminiscent of the age-old adage, “Small steps can lead to big changes.” Many companies now adopt grand and highly-publicized sustainability strategies, but significant impact can come from simple changes. To illustrate, recycling miscellaneous office waste can create big changes in the long run.  Through enacting small changes that are done in day-to-day operations, employees can become more acclimated to the shift. These changes also show that there is genuine commitment by the company to become more sustainable. Another good strategy to adopt is going paperless.  Paper waste is one of the biggest contributors to companies’ waste, as they are integral in publishing reports, contracts, and other relevant documents. Going paperless is a simple yet impactful way to help your company achieve its sustainability targets.

The importance of ensuring a seamless shift towards sustainability lies in how it affects more than just the company itself. We have come to a point wherein sustainability is no longer a business maneuver or a possible public relations tactic. Slowly but surely, sustainability has grown from being a side topic to becoming a central focus for businesses all over world. While it may seem like a simple shift, practicing sustainability while running a business is becoming an increasingly complex endeavor that requires a firm and urgent commitment by companies. This calls for key decision-makers who can think fast and lead strong. Under their leadership, they can make sustainability more than just a buzzword and turn it into a practical strategy.

Governance and Leadership
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