Environmental Sustainability in Business: Making Eco-Responsibility a Measure of Success

Businesses need to re-envision the concept of environmental sustainability. While it is an effective marketing tool, its primary objective is to deliver lasting consumer and social value.

Regardless of the industry, environmental sustainability is becoming increasingly more vital to business success and longevity. Although green initiatives had been relegated to the sidelines for many U.S. businesses for decades, the urgency of the climate crisis has many executives re-evaluating their priorities, not only for a marketing and branding standpoint, but from a cost of operations perspective. Climate change, in addition to being a tremendous threat to vulnerable populations, unsettles supply chain operations, potentially making business processes untenable.

“In the agriculture, food, and beverage sector, the impacts of climate change have the potential to alter growing conditions and seasons, increase pests and disease, and decrease crop yields. Disruptions in the supply chain may affect production processes that depend on unpriced natural capital assets such as biodiversity, groundwater, clean air, and climate.” – Harvard Business Review “The Comprehensive Case for Sustainability”

A lack of consideration for environmental issues when mapping out business strategies carries considerable risk. Not only do commitments to environmental sustainability create value for an ever-increasing number of socially conscious consumers, clean energy solutions can enhance overall efficiency and better prepare businesses for possible regulatory compliance down the line.

When it comes to going green, employers shouldn’t discount the impact it has on employee satisfaction and the ability to attract high-quality candidates. However, a holistic and coordinated approach to initiative implementation and training is critical to long-term success.

“[S]uperior employee performance is the outcome of the adoption of environmental practices combined with other organizational practices, such as high-quality management systems, employee training, and/or high level of interpersonal contacts within the firm and with organizations outside of the firm.” – Sage Publications “Organizational Configurations for Sustainability and Employee Productivity: A Qualitative Comparative Analysis Approach”

From a branding perspective, being an environmentally responsible organization is more than just good strategy – it’s a no-brainer. According to findings from the 2019 Retail and Sustainability Survey, nearly 70% of Americans view environmental sustainability as an important factor when deciding to purchase a product or service. The core belief in the existential danger of climate change is driving consumers to support businesses that share their values.

If you want to adopt environmentally sustainable strategies, here are a few best practices to consider.

Consider Internal and External Environments

Businesses’ sustainability depends upon internal and external factors in nearly equal measure. Your facilities may recycle, use low-flow toilets, and abjure disposable paper products in the break room, but if your suppliers and fundamental business practices depend upon environmentally harmful means and methods, your sustainability claims may require a caveat.

It is crucial that the management team possesses the ability to identify, plan for and exploit potentially disruptive changes for the benefit of the organization. It is extremely challenging to integrate – or predict – the multitude of factors that influence a business’s ability to effectively adapt to new sustainable protocols. There will be new resources, technologies, supply chain issues, and supplier challenges, among other things, that will have to be addressed in order to achieve a sustainable business model. Businesses must take inventory of the holistic sustainability of the industry infrastructure to ensure top-to-bottom green practices.

Develop a Strategic and Innovative Action Plan

Innovation is key to developing effective strategies for business environmental sustainability. Embrace methods of extending the life cycle and resource utilization percentages of products and supplies to achieve greater efficiency and decrease waste.

Foster a Culture that Values Sustainability

The culture of the organization must align with the action plan if change is going to be achieved. It is essential that all stakeholders be committed to this vision, so that all investments and policies – from energy efficiency modifications, supplier changes and technology upgrades – continue in the appropriate scale for the long term.

Commit to Partnering with Outside Organizations

In addition to developing an organization that is in practice environmentally sustainable, partnering with organizations whose mission is to promote beneficial environmental change is not only a wise marketing move, but an ethical one.

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Stay Vigilant

No one has a window into the future, but as climate change imperils the way of life for millions of global citizens, effective scenario planning, flexibility and scalability will be critical in ensuring environmental sustainability initiatives will yield dividends for the long term.

Global corporate decision-making is being heavily influenced by cultural, environmental and governmental pressures, so environmental sustainability as a corporate strategy is far more than a surface branding solution. When environmental sustainability practices are integrated into organizational policies, significant value is added for the consumer, the community, and the planet.

Forest Founders: Helping Businesses Go Green and Stay Green

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