The concepts of social responsibility, business sustainability and living a sustainable lifestyle have been around for a long time. However, these conversations have traditionally been between a smaller set of social and business practitioners. Today, we are all exploring sustainability as an engrained part of our lives. We hear about going green on the radio, in newspapers, websites, blogs and while we each have a different version of what going green means to us, to our businesses, and how to qualify its meaning. As the year is quickly drawing to a close, many are asking how to plan for sustainability in 2013.
Within our sustainability consulting practice, we find that integrating sustainability concepts into core business functions makes companies more nimble in a fast-changing world. It also makes a business’s brands more attractive to consumers and its executive management more respected by employees, regulators and the financial markets. In short, the drivers for improved business sustainability equate to improved performance and cost savings.
The great thing about business sustainability is that it's a fit for both large and small business. Sure, many smaller organizations falsely subscribe to the belief that business sustainability is only for larger organizations, there is the recognition of the ‘softer’ value of sustainability. However, noted in our sustainability consulting, risk doesn't discriminate. How is your organization accounting for the following potential risks in 2013?
• Increase cost from uncontrolled emissions.
• Increase cost from measure waste streams.
• Increase cost from rising energy and uncontrolled consumption.
• Increased cost in supply and distribution.
• Increased cost in from the use of unsustainable materials.
• Increase cost from tax or regulatory changes.
• Increase in cost from reactive design, engineering and manufacturing changes.
• Increased cost from obsolete supply or product.
According to Ernst & Young’s 2010 Business Risk Report, corporate social responsibility and the need for social acceptance both appeared on the top ten risks facing businesses. Within our sustainability consulting practice, we predict these trends to continue. In fact, in planning for 2013, we encourage businesses to engage in the conversation by asking questions. Curiosity elicits the best answers. Consider the results of stakeholder collaboration:
• Employees actively engaged in the sustainability strategies of the business.
• The supply chain working together under aligned sustainability goals.
• Business responsiveness to the expectations of the consumer.
• Business practices designed for minimal environmental impact.
• Realized benefits of a supportive local community.
Why not capitalize on the competitive advantage now and jump start your 2013 planning with sustainable business strategies? By integrating sustainability concepts into the business, you are positively impacting the environment and generating bright business ideas for the year ahead. Following are 15 areas to consider in your planning. Contact us for more information to include sustainable business strategies in your 2013 business planning.
- Office Energy Consumption – Evaluate the average energy use per square foot of office space and implementing best practices to reduce: energy consumption studies, efficiency practices, equipment modifications, etc.
- Employee Commuting – Offer employees incentives to ride public transportation or participate in car/van pooling. Consider a bike commuting program.
- Employee Telecommuting – Reduced office space and transportation as a potential win-win-win practice for businesses, employees, and the environment.
- Sustainable Design – Consider materials selection, energy consumption, manufacturing, product use and operation, and final disposition, early in the product development process.
- Water Conservation – Manage water entering the company and look for opportunities to reuse water.
- Management Systems – Raise eco awareness and company commitment through established sustainability policies, standards, metrics, and self audits.
- Environmental Philanthropy – Beyond just corporate volunteering efforts provide access to technology, engineering support, information and research that benefits the local community and the environment.
- Packaging – Focus on using as little packaging material as needed and making packaging as recyclable as possible.
- Pollution Prevention – Keep attention on both source control and waste reduction
- Recycling and Waste Reduction - Anywhere there is a trash can, there should be a recycling bin.
- Resource Conservation – Consider material and energy consumption across the entire value chain…reduce, reuse, recycle.
- Printing Less – Paper makes up about 35% of a typical company’s total waste stream
- Go Digital – Reduce paper use and get contracts and documents signed more quickly by using electronic signatures.
- Sustainable Partnering – A key aspect of business sustainability is making sure that you manage your supply chain and partner with companies with similar values.
- Sustainable Education and Development - There is always more you can do to make your business more sustainable. Encourage education and innovation within the organization.