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The importance of implementing sustainable business strategies

Making sustainability improvements requires everyone in the company to become better systems thinkers and apply sustainable business strategies across the organisation.

 

Corporate sustainability is increasingly acknowledged as a critical component of good governance, risk management and a source of competitive advantage. Just some of the many benefits include reduced operating costs, energy efficiency, and employee engagement.

Face environmental sustainability challenges and thrive

When implementing sustainability strategies, you’ll undoubtedly face a number of challenges because you’re dealing with ‘change’, and in some areas quite dramatic change. You’ll need to build resilience into your organisation. This requires both process and behavioural changes at all levels of your organisation.

A focus on sustainability must be a ‘whole of business view’ that supports innovation and improvement ideas from all levels of your organisation.

Leadership will play a critical role in driving its implementation and continuous improvement. You may face challenges to get the ‘buy-in’ required.

Undertaking sustainability improvements may seem complex initially and certainly requires all company leaders to invest considerable time and energy. Undoubtedly challenges will present themselves with the efforts required to determine which areas to apply sustainability to support your business goals, and then how to implement them.

You’ll need to analyse your operations and measure performance. You may need to factor in capital expenditure, allocating employees or developing particular workforce skills. Improvements may be needed to update daily procedures and you may need to work hard at establishing a culture of sustainability in the workplace.

However, the benefits are far-reaching because you are optimising social, environmental and business performance for long-term value creation. 

A ‘whole’ new competitive approach

You can apply sustainability activities to almost any aspect of your business. You might focus on daily operations and energy efficiency. Or you may develop business strategies at the corporate level and implement them through sustainable development plans across your procedures and workforce. It might be important to target your supply chain decisions and your marketing campaigns to let the community know about your sustainability improvements.

Depending on your business goals and current needs you might focus on different areas of sustainability. Like any other business decision your strategy should be based on a review of the options and how they support your business goals.

Look ‘behind the scenes’ at how your business currently operates. This will help to identify the full cost of your processes and products, business strategies and activities. It will also identify a ‘whole of business’ view so that savings in one area don’t result in costs in another. You’ll be able to highlight all opportunities to improve productivity and efficiency, as well as those to reduce the hidden costs generated from unnecessary energy use and waste. 

Considerations should include how to avoid and manage environmental risks, minimise or mitigate damage, and how to position your business as a ‘good corporate citizen’. You should also define strategies to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

You’ll be looking to build a customer base that buys on value including those of sustainability features. How you manage your workforce capabilities and culture to balance these new needs is another important consideration.

Sustainability best practices

There are a number of best practices that foster business sustainability, and can assist your organisation to move from being behind the pack to being leaders.

Learn from customers, employees and their surrounding community. This stakeholder engagement is not only about pushing out messages, but understanding opposition, finding common ground and involving stakeholders in joint decision-making.

Implement environmental management systems. These systems provide the structures and processes that help embed environmental efficiency into a firm’s culture and mitigate risks. The most widely recognised standard worldwide is ISO 14001, but numerous other industry-specific and country-specific standards exist.

Measurement and control are at the heart of instituting sustainable practices. By reporting and disclosure not only can you collect and collate information, but also be entirely transparent with outsiders. The Global Reporting Initiative is one of many examples of well-recognised reporting standards.

Finally, if you want to take a large leap forward you should systematically analyse the environmental and social impact of the products you use and produce through life cycle analysis, which measures impacts more accurately.

michael-derin

Michael Derin

Group Managing Partner, Azure Group

Michael Derin has over 25 years’ experience as a qualified Chartered Accountant and Corporate Advisor across Asia-Pacific with a track record of leading multi-million dollar projects to success.

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