What does it mean to be a sustainable organisation?
In recent years, sustainability and renewability have become common terms in the modern corporate vocabulary. Two apparently simple words that translate a range of activities into a single, cohesive impulse: to minimise the effect that your business operations have on your local environment.
They are more than just buzzwords to describe a business’ green aspirations: true sustainability is the key to the longevity in today’s climate. They unlock increased profitability, provide access to better-qualified applicants, and can even make your brand the first choice for ethically-minded consumers.
But in a post-Brexit, post-Covid, credit crunch society, can businesses afford to place the environment at the heart of their operations?
The UK’s green ambitions
In the frankest terms, businesses can’t afford not to put sustainability at the heart of their business practices.
The UK’s political and corporate landscapes are fundamentally different to what they looked like ten years ago, and it’s almost impossible to grasp how much further they will change in the next decade.
In the last few years alone, the UK government has set out its ambitious plans to become one of the world’s first net carbon neutral countries by 2050 – plans which it has later brought forward, pledging to invest £12bn and create 250,000 new green jobs by 2030. Octopus Energy, a leading renewable energy supplier, has predicted that over $742tn will be invested in renewables over the same period, whilst major international corporations like McDonalds and Coca Cola have both switched their roadgoing fleets to cleaner and more sustainable fuels.
Limiting the effects of climate change is a collective effort, and any business that hasn’t started to put the environment at the heart of their operations is already behind the curve. However, by going green, businesses stand to gain a great deal more than they will lose.
7 sustainability wins for UK businesses
1 – Improve your brand image and reputation
Every year, brands around the world invest millions in PR and marketing campaigns designed to improve the way that they are seen by their peers, partners and potential customers. Changing business practices to be more green can be a quick win in this area, especially if they are significant enough to be communicable.
Deeper and more fundamental changes can be more resource-heavy at the start, but can also unlock greater rewards. They can also provide access to awards, accreditations and industry recognition, further emphasising your commitment to sustainable practices.
2 – Make your business more attractive to potential partners and investors
In addition to creating positive attention, greener business practices are another string in your bow when it comes to attracting customers, consumers and potential partners.
Customers and consumers are more likely to shop or partner with brands whose ethos mirrors their own, especially in the B2C sphere. According to a recent survey into consumer attitudes, 81% of those surveyed said that they prefer to buy from sustainable sellers, whilst 90% agreed that it’s vital that society becomes more energy-conscious.
In short, decreasing your environmental impact can only serve to increase your brand’s profile amongst your existing customer base and with new potential clients.
3 – Create stronger relationships with internal stakeholders
Stakeholder engagement is key with any initiative that alters the way in which a business operates. From your CEO to the wider board of directors, the ultimate responsibility for a business’ success or failure lies with them.
Ensuring high-level buy-in for sustainability should be fairly straightforward given the benefits, and it also gives stakeholders the opportunity to engage with their business on a granular level – a win for everyone involved that leads us on to…
4 – Better employee retention and access to more qualified applicants
As any responsible CEO will attest, any organisation’s most important asset is its people.
Forbes has reported that employees who feel engaged are over 4x as likely to feel empowered to perform their best work – and when you consider that 65% of people want to work for a company with a strong social conscience, it’s easy to see how including sustainability in your wider staff engagement strategy can only benefit your business.
When it comes to the next generation of talent entering the workforce, can you really afford to miss out on the 65% of applicants who want to work for an ethical employer?
5 – See a year-on-year improvement in annual CSR reporting
Annual Corporate Social Responsibility reporting, or CSR for short, requires businesses to be transparent about the impact their activities are having on the environment, on society, and on the economy.
It gives all interested parties – from CEOs to staff members, potential investors, customers and the media – the opportunity to understand the effect that a business has on its local community.
Sustainability is one of the key factors for environmental reporting. Through greater efforts to reduce impact in this area, the CSR provides an opportunity for businesses to not just say how they are operating more ethically, but to show it too. These gains can be measured year on year, providing a solid foundation for an organisation’s future sustainability claims.
6 – Increased profitability
Whether you’re looking to undertake a fundamental review of the way your business operates, or to adopt many smaller changes to benefit from cumulative marginal gains, there are changes that your business can make that will have a real effect on your bottom line.
Most actions taken in the pursuit of more sustainable practices often have multiple benefits – for example, reducing paper waste will mean less paper being recycled, but also means less paper being purchased and printed. Turning off lights in unused rooms cuts down your carbon footprint, but also lowers your energy bills and slows light bulb replacement.
It’s also important to note the purely financial opportunities that increased environmental awareness can unlock. From preferential tax rates for businesses that are heavily energy dependent, to grants and other government-backed incentives, there are valuable resources available to organisations who commit to a greener future.
7 – It’s better for the environment!
The main reason that businesses should move to more sustainable practices is that it’s better for the environment. Where most of the entries in this list are tangible benefits that can be measured and enjoyed, this one is possibly the least quantifiable whilst simultaneously being the most important.
We all have to play our part to protect our environment, from individuals to businesses to entire nations. Without decisive action now, we will all suffer later.
But what are the steps that you can take today to be more environmentally friendly?
What can businesses do to be more sustainable?
There will never be a “one size fits all” when it comes to sustainability – a change that is right for your organisation might not be possible for another. However, in all cases the first step is to engage with your stakeholders as no change can be permanent without the buy-in of both your leadership team and your staff.
The simplest changes will always be the easiest to make and sustain. Steps such as placing a reminder on emails not to print them unless it’s totally necessary, moving to paperless invoicing and purchasing recycled paper can provide real short-term benefits.
More in-depth initiatives can be discovered through an energy audit. This includes evaluating every one of your buildings for opportunities to improve sustainability, from structural issues such as insulation to using energy-efficient lighting and heating.
Greater consideration of your energy supply can also be a key win when it comes to your new green outlook; many gas and electricity suppliers offer energy tariffs based on renewable or clean energy. For those who regularly use fossil fuels such as diesel, consider switching to renewable alternatives like HVO.
Switch to HVO fuel today to cut your emissions
HVO fuel is an advanced renewable diesel alternative that offers up to 90% reduction in net CO2 emissions and drastic cuts to NOx, CO and particulate matter.
What’s more, as it’s derived from vegetable oil and waste oils, it’s completely renewable and sustainable without any of the drawbacks found in FAME-based biodiesels.