For all of the rhetoric about improving the environment through making a more sustainable business, it can be difficult to actually commit to these changes. While companies can and should be focused on the ways they can create a better future through their actions, they need to take steps to do so in a productive manner.
And there are more considerations than just finance. How to adjust a workforce is an important factor, especially if jobs could potentially be eliminated entirely by a switch. All of these considerations make many businesses hesitant to embrace sustainability, believing that potential costs can outweigh benefits.
Fortunately, there’s more to it than that. An increasing number of business leaders are finding that their sustainability initiatives actually help, rather than hurt, their bottom line.
As it turns out, giving the environment its due consideration can also be good for business. Historically, giving employees a stake in a company, through stock ownership plans and the like, has led to more successful businesses. And sustainability programs can play a huge role in giving employees control over a company’s direction. Sustainability advisory boards have proved influential in helping guide the transition for companies. Often, having these external voices involved is critical to ensuring that no employees are left behind over the lengthy course of a transition toward sustainability.
Sustainability works in part because consumers are becoming more conscious about which companies take measures to promote sustainability and which do not. In the information age, a company cannot expect to keep poor environment practices under wraps, and many will change their purchasing habits accordingly. Employees will also be wary about working with companies for similar reasons. In this way, making the shift toward sustainability can ensure better practices throughout your entire supply chain. Having clear values will attract the kind of talent you want at your company.
In the long term, changing operations to be more sustainable will pay in the long run. With new practices comes added value to products or services. This can create closer relationships with consumers and improve loyalty. Additionally, more energy-efficient methods break even in the long run, cutting costs overall.
Furthermore, sustainability should be seen as an opportunity more than a challenge. With massive environmental problems facing the world, any business that provides the tools and services necessary to make lasting change stands to generate quite the profit. Other businesses are looking to embrace sustainability, but many feel that they cannot do so. I expect to see new businesses addressing these needs in the near future, as well as others that pivot to match demand.
The fact is, while there is no ideal model for business sustainability, a plan that accounts for shareholders and employees has the potential to both mitigate environmental impact and improve a company’s longevity. Standards are changing, and sustainability is yet another competitive advantage that savvy companies are able to leverage.