Businesses around the world are increasingly embracing sustainability, not just as a side project, but as a driving force behind their company culture and they run their business. A McKinsey global survey reported that 70 percent of respondents state that their companies have some form of sustainability governance in place.
But what does business sustainability mean and how does it impact a business?
Often when we hear the word sustainability, we associate it with being green and eco-friendly, and while that is a huge part of it, sustainability in business goes beyond that.
Sustainability in business is essentially about trying to have a more positive effect in three key areas: environment, economy and society, not just in the present but for future generations.
Sustainability allows businesses to go beyond a profit-only mindset and realize what kind of impact they make in their community and around the world, and how every decision their business makes could either make the world better or worse than it already is.
Sustainability is not just important for businesses, it’s also important for consumers. Consumers, especially those who belong to the younger generation, aren’t just looking to save a buck when considering whether or not to support a product or service. They pay attention to how businesses address environmental and social responsibilities. You may have a good product but if you’re using inhumane labor practices, consumer or investor will increasingly want to avoid that.
A 2014 McKinsey study reported that companies with a high environmental, social and governance (ESG) rating have lower debt and equity and outperform the market in the medium and long-term. For businesses who want to compete in the long-term, improved sustainability should be a primary goal.
How can your business begin adopting sustainability practices? Consider these steps:
Define What Sustainability Means for Your Business
There isn’t a catch-all of sustainability policies for all businesses. Every business is unique and impacts the environment, society and economy, both locally and globally, in a unique way.
Take a deeper look in your industry, your current offerings, your HR policies and how you operate your business. How are these things impacting your local community and the larger world? Are you wasting resources even when there are better alternative options? Are you unnecessarily leaving a larger carbon footprint that is negatively affecting your community? Are you using suppliers and vendors that go against your values? Do your hiring practices arbitrarily shut out minorities at any level in your organisation?
Knowing the current impact your business makes will help you start putting together what policies and changes you need to make in order to become a more sustainable business.
Diversity is Needed to Have More Diverse Voices
If a company consistently only employs and promotes people from the same background it limits their understanding of how they impact the world, their own employees, and stifles creativity in the workplace. Voices need to be heard from people across the gender spectrum, with diverse sexualities, ages, economic backgrounds, with people who are neurodiverse or have physical disabilities or health conditions. Without a diverse workforce policies and practices that are discriminatory could remain unchallenged because people outside those community groups are less likely to understand the nuances behind those policies.
A diverse workforce widens a company’s perspective and allows them to reach out to and understand a wider consumer base.
Ingrain Sustainability in Your Company Culture
In order for sustainability governance to actually be effective, every single team member in the company, including suppliers and vendors, has to be onboard.
Sustainability can’t be just a side project, like an employee referral program. Sustainability isn’t an option, it has to be ingrained in your company culture and the driving force behind every decision the company makes. Your policies and practices should be understood and supported by everyone within the company in order to really make an overall impact. This can be done by providing sustainability training to team members as well as making it part of your hiring and onboarding practices.
This year’s Rise and Lead Summit is centered around sustainability and wealth creation for women. In order to drive wealth creation and sustainable businesses across the globe, we need to ensure companies and policy makers build ways to maximise female engagement and leadership in the workforce and marketplace. Join us and engage meaningful conversations as we strive towards a sustainable future for all. Find out more here.
Ebere Akadiri is A Nigerian Food Entrepreneur who lives in The Hague. Her passion to inspire others to achieve their goals drove her to found Rise and Lead Women along with her co-founder, Poonam Barua. Their mission is to inspire women to take the lead in closing the gender gap in workplaces and in business.