What does sustainability have to do with business?
The success of business relies heavily on the health and sustainability of people and communities. How companies operate, treat employees, consume resources, and interact with their neighbours affects the world outside their doors.
Today’s business leaders get that. They know that it is no longer acceptable to focus on the creation of economic value for business without regard for the impact it has on the world around them. They know there is a better way to conduct business while at the same time ensure that they are doing good for their company, employees, communities, and even the planet at large.
Not only are they more aware – they are accountable. They are measuring their impact on the environment as well as their progress in reducing that impact and driving innovation. They are quantifying their contribution to the communities where they work and live. They are making the triple bottom line – people, planet and profits – their barometer for success, and in doing so they are discovering a new kind of prosperity and all the business benefits that come with it.
What Are The Business Benefits Of Sustainability?
Businesses that make sustainability just the way business is done not only create social, environmental and economic shared value, they often achieve a competitive advantage.
Making positive changes across an organization can give rise to opportunities that you never knew existed. Opportunities that not only benefit your company, but also your stakeholders and the community at large.
- Reduce costs: By reducing your ecological footprint, your business is consuming less energy which means reducing operating costs.
- Foster greater customer loyalty: Your customers and investors are demanding greater corporate social responsibility and accountability. Prove that this is an important part of your business, and your customers and stakeholders will spread the word.
- Attract and retain skilled employees: The best of today’s talent, especially young people, are looking at sustainability management as a key factor in determining which companies they want to work for.
- Become an innovation leader: The Harvard Business School Journal says “Sustainability is the #1 driver of innovation in business today.” You can be among the first to introduce new, improved products, services, and processes.
- Reduce financial and reputational risk: By proactively recognizing, managing, and reporting your environmental and social impacts, you will receive better financing rates, realize improved license to operate, and enjoy a more favourable reputation.
- Reduce management risk: The precedent has been established in Canadian law that directors and senior managers are expected to be aware of their company’s environmental and social impact. Having a sustainability strategy is good insurance.
- Realize greater prosperity: Your positive social and environmental initiatives will contribute to a positive economic bottom line for your business and a better quality of life for your employees and the people of Hamilton and Burlington.
- Improve employee morale: Demonstrating that you are an equitable employer who supports life balance leads to more satisfied employees: enhancing productivity and reducing hiring and retention costs.
- Create a healthier community: Reducing your environmental impact and making a greater contribution to your community through charitable contributions and encouraging volunteerism, leads to a better quality of life.
In the end, it’s about creating greater sustainable value for your company, institution or organization while contributing to a better world. There can be no bigger benefit.
Here are some of the actions companies can take to practice environmental, social and economic sustainability:
- Support work/life balance programs (e.g. flexible work hours)
- Recognize the value of a diverse workforce
- Promote employee volunterism
- Support community initiatives
- Pay a living wage
- Enforce fair labour practices with suppliers as well as in your own company
- Employment creation and skills development
- Invest in your community
- Protect consumers’ health and safety
- Reduce waste
- Improve energy efficiency
- Reduce GHG emissions
- Reduce / eliminate harmful chemicals
- Reduce water usage
- Support your local economy by buying local
- “Green” your supply chain
- Hire local workers
- Support training and scholarship programs
SHB has given us a dashboard to look at the company, not just from financial metrics but also from environmental and social metrics; and so we’ve been able to see patterns and relationships that we would not normally see in that data. It helps us run our business better.
Stephanie McClarty, CEO, Refficient