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.