Many organizations are focusing on centralizing their business strategy around sustainability—they realize how well they can do by being good.
And that’s great! But what does it mean to integrate sustainability into your business?
Sustainability in Business Defined
Having a sustainable business means operating without making a negative impact on the community, environment, or overall society. Business sustainability addresses two primary categories:
1. The effect a business has on society
2. The effect a business has on the environment
The goal of sustainability in business is to make a positive impact in one of those two areas. Not implementing sustainable practices can lead to inequality, social injustice, and environmental degradation.
Sustainability in business considers an array of economic, social, and environmental factors when making business decisions. Sustainable organizations monitor how their operations impact these areas to ensure they aren’t trading short-term profits for long-term liabilities.
The Importance of Sustainability in Business
Other than curbing global challenges, sustainability in business can help organizations become more successful. Many modern investors analyze an organization’s sustainability practices and ethical impacts based on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) metrics.
Research by McKinsey shows companies with the highest ESG ratings also have lower costs of equity and debt, showing that sustainability practices in a business can help improve its financial performance and foster public support. McKinsey also suggests that the strongest factors motivating businesses to implement sustainability include:
- Aligning the company’s values, missions, or goals
- Building, maintaining or improving reputation
- Meeting customer’s expectations
- Developing new growth opportunities
Financial gain and social environmental progress overlap—this is called the shared value opportunity; doing good can directly impact an organization’s ability to do well. Due to the shared value opportunity, it’s no surprise that businesses worldwide continue adopting these practices.
Next, let’s explore four ways to align your mission and business strategy to create this shared value.
Creating a Sustainable Business Strategy in Four Steps
There are multiple ways you can work on transforming your organization’s purpose into enhanced performance. Follow these steps to create genuine sustainability in your business:
1. Assess Problems → Define Objectives
The first step organizations need to take to drive change and implement sustainability is assessing what it means to your company, team, clients, and industry. You need to consider the most significant problems of each group—this is a priority.
To help you in this process, think about these questions:
- How much waste does your organization create?
- Are your hiring processes attracting a diverse selection of candidates?
- How does your company impact the local community?
- Is your company culture struggling?
- Does your product target certain audiences to help?
Answering questions like these can help you establish your organization’s sustainability objectives. When defining those objectives, take the SMART approach: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
2. Define Your Mission
Once you’ve set and agreed upon concrete objectives, it’s time to define your organization’s mission. Defining a unique mission statement is crucial to becoming a sustainable business.
The best mission statements outline your organization’s focus on what it does. It should capture your company’s purpose and values, serving as a guiding light of why your organization does what it does. Your mission statement should define the five Ws of your company: who, what, when, where, and why. Two things should be clear:
- What your company values are
- How you follow them in your operations
You should also consider how your mission statement will change and grow as your organization scales. Your mission statement should help your company evolve with the market rather than hindering internal capabilities to disrupt and innovate. So, ensuring you can extrapolate your objectives from your mission statement is essential.
3. Establish Your Strategy
Armed with a strong mission statement, you’re ready to craft a sustainable business strategy for your organization. When establishing this strategy, it’s crucial to ensure that your company remains profitable—you can’t be sustainable and help your cause without being a successful business. As we discussed above, your sustainability efforts might even help your company become more profitable along the way.
There’s a concept called the triple bottom line that refers to how an organization’s actions impact the planet, people, and its profit. Keeping this framework in mind can help you develop sustainability in your business strategy while remaining profitable.
Even the smallest changes can be a starting point for making a large-scale impact. For example, if your company leaves its heat and electricity on overnight when there are no employees present, shutting them off for the night can save on both cost and energy resources. Making this change is as simple as having the last to leave shut them off or installing a motion sensor or timer to automatically shut them down after everyone leaves the building.
Not to mention that 33% of consumers prefer to buy from brands that focus on doing social or environmental good; this creates an opportunity in the market for creating sustainable goods through sustainable business practices.
Look for industry-specific strategies you can use to increase efficiency while driving internal and social value. Building a robust sustainability strategy can help your company and the environment.
4. Implement → Assess
Talking about your newfound motivation to implement sustainability in business is one thing; however, it’s another to pledge quantifiable results, take a public stance, and work towards those goals. Once you’ve solidified your mission and strategy, you can start taking steps toward reaching your objectives.
During implementation, remember to frequently revisit your processes to ensure that your objectives and mission remain aligned with your progress.
Related: Carbon Offsetting in 2022
Sustainability in Business: Making a Greater Impact
Equipped with these four simple steps, you can start making a greater impact today by getting the ball rolling with sustainability in your business.
When your objectives become a purpose, you can establish a powerful story. And that story drives your mission, allowing you to create a strategy. Results may not be immediate, and the road to sustainability is long—it will be worth it.
Ready to make the plant switch and implement sustainability in your business? See how we can help at PlantSwitch—the plant-based future is here.