Embracing sustainability – tips from the bigger firms

Companies that fully integrate sustainability are realising benefits both in monetary and brand reputation.In its latest report Sustainability: The Embracers Seize Advantage, MIT Sloan Management Review and the Boston Consulting Group cite a number of areas that can lead to greater growth and profitability.

Not all businesses will find it easy to embrace sustainability but those that integrate environmental systems across the whole of the firm, like they would for quality or health and safety issues, find the benefits.

“Integrate sustainability, not as a layer, but in the fabric of the business” and “treat sustainability as a key business lever in the same way that you treat marketing, finance, culture, HR or supply chain” are two approaches that help the overall business grow.

External factors are becoming increasingly influential in sustainable business decision making, the survey found. Government regulations and legislation require greater compliance; institutional investors and pension funds are reviewing investments with an eye on sustainability; and employees and customers are demanding change.

What can small business owners learn from the bigger companies when trying to implement sustainability in their firms? Here are seven practices that companies embracing sustainability focus on:

  1. Be bold – act even when you don’t have all the answers – it’s an evolutionary journey
  2. Balance a long-term vision with some quick wins
  3. Drive sustainability from the top down and bottom up – involve all staff  particularly when identifying potential solutions
  4. Integrate sustainability throughout the business’ operations – just like you would with quality and health & safety practices
  5. Measure everything – establish baselines and develop methods of assessment
  6. Value intangible benefits seriously – what are the meaningful competitive benefits?
  7. Try to be authentic and transparent – internally and externally

Implementing sustainable practices within a business should be long-term, integrating them within the business plan and other existing policies. Even if initiatives are adopted in a piecemeal approach this should reap rewards.

Let’s learn from the success stories and view the new year as a great starting place to move forward.

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