5 Ways to Implement a Sustainability Strategy

Sustainability in business is crucial for a number of reasons.

Beyond the obvious first thoughts of environmental benefits – which are hugely important for our future – sustainability also plays a role in minimising energy and waste costs, it helps to attract and motivate employees to your company, and is fantastic for the reputation of a business as well as its bottom line. Here, Carmen Ene, CEO, 3 Step IT, explains for CEO Today.

What problems or complications can arise in implementing a sustainability strategy?

Despite clear sustainability rewards, there are inevitably problems and complications when you put good intentions into practice.

First, the investments have to be justified by more than ‘this is the right thing to do’. In the long term, being more sustainable should help differentiate the business, meanwhile, maybe the short-term costs are high, the transition process long, and some of the benefits are fuzzy and hard to pin down. If the sums are significant, then agreeing the investment can be tough, even when the long-term vision is clear.

On the other hand, you can make many small changes sustainability. The complete picture has environmental, social and governance dimensions. Investments to improve environment performance can be large, while governance changes are often low cost and so easy to justify. So you need to pick your targets, especially to get started and build momentum.

You also need to work out how you measure progress. How should your company measure sustainability? How do you get finance and business managers to align their goals? How do you engage management and encourage employees to participate? The CEO has to help resolve these differences.

What five effective measures can a company take to create sustainability within its business?

Define some clear goals. If anything in business is going to work, there has to be a plan, and sustainability is no different. Defining some goals is an essential first step. Whether you want to reduce carbon emissions or improve employee motivation, you need a goal before you can develop a plan.

Gradual and consistent improvements. Sustainability is a journey rather than a destination. Small improvements are probably the easiest way to start, and require little in the way of a challenging business case. It could be something as small as making it easier to recycle in the office. A consistent focus on incremental improvements will keep you moving forward on the sustainability journey.

Assure sustainability in your supply chain. No matter how good your own performance, supply chain shortcomings will damage the outcome. You could have the cleanest internal processes, but if poor practices deliver the raw materials, they also taint your product.

Try putting ‘sweatshop scandal’ into your search engine to see how many got caught out in this way. Eventually, there will be reputation damage, and a financial hit.

Allocate resource. If you are going to keep making progress, you need a continual focus. That is especially true in the early stages, when there may be small projects that get completed, then next ones need to start. While major projects clearly need resources, keeping momentum on the sustainability journey takes effort. It is more important than something the CEO thinks about every now and then, someone in your organisation needs to own the responsibility.

Engage employees. Business sustainability includes your staff. Encourage more recycling, cycling to work or not using plastic products in the office. We found sustainability challenges, especially with a competitive element, build morale and team spirit, especially amongst the millennials who will have to live with the consequences when today’s businesses are not sustainable. When they get involved, your people will come up with lots of fresh ideas.

In the end, it is less complicated than you think, the outcomes are better than you expect, and it is more important than you can imagine.

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