The condition of our planet is changing—and not for the better. Pollution levels are rising, ecosystems are in jeopardy, and scarce resources are being depleted. This is just some of what is seen, but we must consider that which is unseen as well; like the rising temperatures of the Earth, the toxins emitted into the air we breathe, and emissions released into the atmosphere. You may wonder how we got to this point.
According to the late Ray Anderson, ranked America’s Greenest CEO, the biggest culprit of the massive mistreatment of Earth is business and industry. Further, it is the only institution that is able to lead humankind out of the mess we have created, as they are the only entity large enough, pervasive enough, and powerful enough to do so.
Thankfully, today’s business practices are shifting with a stronger focus on sustainability, and below are some reasons why you and your company should consider being sustainable, too.
But first, what is sustainable business?
Sustainable business is conducting business in a way that is economically, environmentally, and socially beneficial. Additionally, it enables a company to meet the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations. So, in essence, it is a win win-win—benefiting profit, people, and the planet.
What are the benefits of being sustainable?
A common misconception is that we need to make tradeoffs with sustainability, but this is simply not the case. Sustainability can be profitable, and in fact, sustainable initiatives are often adopted as a cost-saving strategy. By being sustainable, companies can better meet the rising consumer demand for greener products. It even poses as a marketing opportunity to enhance brand reputation and consumer trust. Companies like Ray Anderson’s Interface have even seen significant growth in sales and a higher profit margin, all while avoiding depletion of natural resources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But it’s important to note that being sustainable is a long-term initiative that becomes a component of the business model—not an overnight fix.
Where to start?
Regardless of the industry or size of the business, every company has the opportunity to adopt sustainable initiatives. Just as no two companies are alike, the initiatives adopted can differ based on the company. Here are ways to get started …
- If you own your own space and these decisions are within your control, ensure your buildings and facilities are environmentally friendly. Consider replacing outdated bulbs with LED lights, using solar panels or a renewable energy provider, utilizing environmentally friendly cleaning supplies, and implementing low flow plumbing fixtures to reduce water consumption.
- In the office, simple adjustments include purchasing paper that comes from responsibly managed forests (FSC Certified) or is simply recycled, along with using natural/eco-friendly ink that’s free from heavy metals, toxins, and hazardous air pollutants.
- In order to address the social implications of sustainable practices, ensure that your company and entire supply chain is socially responsible, being both gender and ethnically diverse and not infringing on human rights, fair labor practices, or health and safety conditions, to name a few.
- If you are in the manufacturing sector, enable responsible production by avoiding waste and designing sustainable packaging, which incorporates aesthetics and functionality but uses no more material than necessary—even using recyclable/biodegradable materials, if possible.
- Put a recycling e-waste plan in place for the company, as electronic waste like computers, monitors, etc. are NOT meant for the dumpster and can be harmful if discarded incorrectly. They contain a significant amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, and flame retardants that can end up in our soil, water, and air— being detrimental to both people and the planet.
- When engaging in activities that emit greenhouse gas emissions, like shipping packages or flying on a plane, you can typically pay extra through the shipping service or airline to carbon offset the emissions, rather than abstaining from those activities entirely. For example, on a flight from New York City to Chicago, you can offset the carbon emissions of your flight by paying approximately an additional $7.
- Finally, consider hiring a sustainability consultant to audit your company’s operations and take a customized approach to making your company more sustainable while having the greatest return on investment on initiatives adopted.
For more information
For additional insights and a greater understanding of the sustainable framework, check out the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, which is a global framework put in place to guide us towards a more sustainable future.
To see the benefits of a company integrating sustainable initiatives, view Ray Anderson’s Ted Talk where he shares a powerful vision for sustainable commerce.
Any initiatives we adopt are important steps toward becoming a sustainable business and preserving our planet for future generations.