In business, sustainability is defined as the practice of operating a business without impacting the environment negatively. Sustainable businesses operate with the interests of local and global environments in mind and consider the impact on society and the environment. The focuses of these businesses are profits, people, and the planet. Keeping these three themes in mind, businesses are able to adopt and modify business models and plans in order to fully create a meaningful sustainability program and strategy.
According to Forbes, 90% of executives think sustainability is important, but only 60% of companies have a sustainability strategy. Creating the strategy is crucial – it needs to create an impact yet be attainable. Companies such as Apple, Tesla, Nike, and Biogen have found ways to implement sustainability initiatives into their business plans and models by staying transparent and addressing issues with materials. By doing this, these companies are allowing their customers to hold them accountable to the standards they are currently following and goals for the future.
Although developing and implementing a high-quality sustainability strategy takes substantial amounts of time, money, and planning, the payouts and return on investment are sizeable. Businesses that transition to a sustainability strategy can reduce costs substantially and increase profit by up to 60%. Additionally, having a plan for sustainability can augment a business’ reputation and competitive advantage in the stock market. Sustainability has costs to it, but 66% of customers would spend more if the products they wanted were from a sustainable brand. Our society has seen an increase in demand for sustainable products and brands, and as a result, there is ample room in the market for growth and increases in market share.
Countries across the world have taken measures to contribute to sustainability, and the businesses that operate in those countries are able to make a meaningful impact. A law in France requires supermarkets to redistribute leftover food to charities to eliminate food waste. Switzerland has developed a system to turn leftover waste and recycling into energy instead of letting it sit in landfills. Copenhagen, Denmark is set to become the first CO2-neutral city by 2025. A country’s sustainability depends on the sustainability of businesses in that country. Every effort can impact overall sustainability so any sustainability measure businesses can implement will positively impact the world we live in.
Impacts of businesses, sustainable or not, are felt by everyone. Members of the board and employees should be included in discussions about their organization's sustainability efforts and policies. All parties should collaborate to decide what topics regarding sustainability they should focus on and which will be best for the company and everyone involved. Selecting a few topics is a better way to start transitioning to a more sustainable operating model as it is unrealistic to fix every issue from the beginning. Starting with an attainable goal will help build accountability within the company to begin the transition to being as sustainable as possible.
Without sustainability, the world we live in will be adversely changed forever. One person can develop a sustainable lifestyle, but the impact will not be as impactful as if global businesses and corporations made the same changes.