Behind The Rise Of Sustainability In Business

Whilst it may seem like environmentally-friendly practices encompasses sustainability, this is simply one third of what the definition includes. Sustainability in business requires the recognition and inclusion of three areas; social, economic and environmental.

As this video explains, sustainability is not an individual choice but rather a collective concern we as a humanity must address together. 

Global Citizen – Sustainability. Credit: BRIKK

What The Statistics Have To Say

According to Stanford’s Social Innovation Review, “88 percent of business school students think that learning about social and environmental issues in business is a priority, and 67 percent want to incorporate environmental sustainability into their future jobs” (2018).

Thus, sustainability in business is not only a priority for current CEO’s but also future business owners. With 67 percent of business school students seeking sustainability-focused career paths, it could be said that the rise of sustainable business will only increase in the coming years.

Plus, with students growing awareness of the current climatic crisis the planet and humanity now face, incorporating holistic sustainability within a brand’s ethos and mission has never been more important.

In recognising this growth, Nielsen Insights suggest “sustainability is no longer a niche play: your bottom-line and brand growth depend on it” (2018).

Consumers Want Brands To Make A Difference

With consumers and customers choosing brands with a sustainable mission over those without, employing strategic principles can lead to significant growth and increased brand awareness.

As the Futerra survey revealed, “…of US and UK consumers, 88% of respondents said they want brands to help them make a difference. But 43% said companies were making it harder for them” (2018).

There’s clearly a gap in the market when it comes to acknowledging customers’ needs and attending to them accordingly. Whilst sustainability may be a somewhat overwhelming and vague term at first glance, the wealth of information, guides, courses and consultancy programs available make it an entirely employable strategy to enhance and improve your brand.

What Does Sustainability Look Like In Business?

The ultimate effectiveness of sustainability within business requires its social, environmental and economic areas to be acknowledged. Simply implementing an environmental strategy within your business model is undermining the potential of sustainability.

Globe Scan Info Graphic: The State of Sustainable Business.

What Do These Terms Mean?

  1. Economic Sustainability
    Recognises a business’s long-term strategy as it relates to innovation, risk management, capital efficiency, margin improvement, growth enhancement and total shareholder return.
  2. Social Sustainability
    Relates to a business’s equal and fair approach towards areas of diversity, human rights, community outreach, Indigenous communities and labour relations.
  3. Environmental Sustainability
    Refers to a business’s practice as it relates to clean air, water and land emissions reduction, zero waste, eco-friendly practices, biodiversity and the overall mission to sustain itself whilst having as little impact on the environment as possible.

Socio-economic, eco-efficiency and socio-environmental are the subcategories that emerge when the aforementioned areas of sustainability cross over.

  1. Eco-efficiency
    Refers to a business’s resource efficiency, product stewardship and life-cycle management.
  2. Socio-economic
    Relates to a business’s social investments, business ethics, local economic impacts, skills enhancement, security regulations and employment opportunities.
  3. Socio-environmental
    Refers to a business’s safety and health policies, environmental regulations, access to clean drinking water, crisis management and effort to reduce climate change.

Business Sustainability In Practice

In exploring these terms, it’s clear sustainability in business is far more than reducing your brand’s plastic consumption. The terms’ far-reaching nature reflect just how important it is for brands to understand the holistic definition of sustainability. The following are examples of what methods and strategies businesses can employ to incorporate sustainability within their brand:

  • Sustainability action plans
  • Sustainability-based learning and development
  • Governance and policy
  • Materiality analysis
  • Sustainability reports
  • Sustainability-focussed content creation

Where To From Here?

Incorporating sustainability within your business will improve your brand’s reputation, increase revenue opportunities, lead to financial savings, enhance productivity and encourage employees to stay, thanks to the ethical incentives they’re provided with.

When we consider the climatic change our earth is enduring, the growing population, the rising prevalence of climate refugees and the increased frequency of natural disasters, being a sustainable business is not only an individually-beneficial decision.

It’s one that has an endlessly positive effect on the world as a collective. With more sustainable brands, we allow ourselves to begin addressing the climatic crisis currently threatening life as we know it. Now that’s a valuable mission for any business.

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