It is one thing to acknowledge an issue and it is an entirely different thing to actually decide to do something about it and act on those plans. The conversation regarding building more sustainable and global businesses has gained a lot of momentum over the last decade. There is encouraging news regarding significant initiatives from various corners of the world. The bottom line is this: sustainability efforts should be on the agenda of every single business leader. Consumers increasingly expect business leaders to play their role in not only delivering economic growth, but also working to improve the lives of customers and employees while protecting the environment.
The Need for Sustainability Cannot Be Ignored Any Longer
Expressing intentions is no longer sufficient. Sustainability is becoming more important for companies across all sectors. It is a business approach to create long-term value by considering how a given organization operates in social, ecological, and economic environments. Developing and implementing these strategies are meant to foster a company’s longevity. This is why business leaders need to focus on sustainability efforts.
Additional Reasons Why Business Leaders Need to Focus on Sustainability Include:
- Government Regulations: Federal, state and local governments are enacting additional regulations to protect the environment. Adopting sustainability efforts will help to ensure that your company will be able to meet the changing regulations in a timely manner
- Public Relations: A growing number of consumers care about environmental issues. This sector of the population is investing in companies who are enacting sustainability policies.
- Attracting Employees: Employees want to attach themselves to brands that care about the environment and social responsibility as a whole.
- Increased Sales: Sustainability commitments are resulting in improved sales.
- Attracting Investors: Like consumers, investors want to invest in a company that is socially responsible.
- Feeding Creativity and Innovation: Challenging employees to come up with better ways to do things is inspiring.
- Enhanced Productivity: Targeting one area with sustainability efforts may lead to improvement in other areas as well.
- Reducing Risk: Reducing the risk of fines and lawsuits by being in compliance keeps costs down.
- Brand Trust and Loyalty: Branding your company as one that is committed to sustainability efforts is a great way to gain consumer confidence, trust, and loyalty.
Sustainability is the Future
Companies are moving toward more sustainable practices by reducing waste, creating a greener supply chain, looking at water efficiency, optimizing material usage, increasing productivity, addressing labor conditions, setting targets on water replenishment, taking steps with regard to energy efficiency, and more.
Sustainability and Business
When examining why business leaders need to focus on sustainability, it is imperative to understand these efforts are good for the environment, for consumers, and for business. Any business leader that does not grasp this is taking the risk of being left behind the competition. There are other risks, such as promising and not delivering or addressing one issue without being solid on compliance with regard to sustainability in other areas. For business leaders to address sustainability appropriately, these risks should be assessed and plans should be in place to address these issues.
Improving Sustainability is a Work in Progress
Just like there is no “one solution” for every business model, there is no “one solution” across the board for implementing sustainability efforts in every business. The best course to take is in analyzing the ambitions and individual stakes of each company. A few steps management teams can take in improving sustainability efforts include:
- Aligning the company strategy with sustainability efforts.
- Address compliance first (pollution and energy efficiency, human rights, labor responsibilities, regulations in waste management, etc.) before addressing competitive advantage.
- Develop proactive sustainability strategies rather than reactive ones. When looking at why business leaders need to focus on sustainability efforts, you should recognize the impact of sustainability and develop proactive strategies rather than waiting until there is a crisis (i.e. public anger for unfair labor practices) to implement such efforts.
- Transparency is key. An open environment in an organization leads to improved performance. This has been proven time and time again. The way to accomplish transparency is through open and clear communication with all stakeholders.
Putting Sustainability Plans into Action
In speeding up sustainability efforts, business leaders should focus on issues that are specific to your business. This includes building a clear business case for focusing on sustainability, reinventing your business model, and developing a compelling value-creating story for investors. This is especially helpful when presenting your case for focusing on sustainability. This is a major challenge, but it is also one that matters beyond individual organizations.
Looking at why business leaders need to focus on sustainability efforts is a critical first step, however, action is the next step that must be taken.