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When people talk about sustainability, they are often referring to the environment; to natural resources and ecology.

That got me thinking. What does sustainability actually mean to me? What does it mean to any of us?

To me it’s about our behaviour and the choices we make in all aspects of our lives, not just those that directly impact the environment, but what we buy, where from and from whom.

Recently, I listened to the Business Growth Club’s Sustainability online event. It was really informative with large-industry executives and even Tim Boote from Protein Rebel (BGP beneficiary) talking about their sustainable journey. This got me thinking about what a younger company may need to consider and importantly how you will enhance the environment, while ensuring your business remains cutting edge and competitive.

Leadership

If the country is going to achieve net zero by 2050, we all need to play our part. Owners and managers of companies have an additional responsibility, we can’t just advocate sustainability at home, we must also ensure that businesses understand their role in reducing consumption. Achieving this requires buy-in from staff and distribution of responsibility across the leadership team. If you are committed then your team will be, but you must make sure everyone understands that this is an integral part of your strategy. You as a leader must talk about sustainability, extol its virtues, make the case as to why it benefits your business and above all, lead from the front.

Discussion and consultation

Your staff and colleagues probably know more about this than you may think.

You must create a culture where your staff are engaged, empowered and supported to achieve sustainable change for the future. Empowering your staff with the knowledge and skills to enable positive action along with training, skills and tools, they will begin to consider environmental sustainability as part of their role and personal contribution. You can have open discussion about where to start, what ideas they have and a strategy will ensure environmental sustainability is factored in to how you make decisions. If your staff feel part of the process, if they feel they can comment on your plans and suggest additional ways of driving change, you will find them willing participants in the journey.

Physical environment

Sustainability is a complex matrix with many contributory factors. Some are easy to quantify. The direct consumption of resources can be metered and consumption data (gas, electric and water) are crucial to inform you of reduction plans. This data will help confirm or disprove assumptions on future growth in usage but you might want to consider conducting your own feasibility studies for on-site reduction but also energy generation.

You could look at solar installations and car park canopies: we’re all going to be driving electric cars in the very near future, so can we utilise our carparks to power our vehicles?

What about waste services? Do we really know what happens to our waste?

Is sustainability a decision factor when choosing a supplier? If it isn’t, then it should be.

These regulatory changes will come and those businesses that start early to address these challenges will be in a more competitive position than those that don’t. We all know about replacing incandescent light bulbs with LEDs, encouraging cycling/walking, public transport use and shared car journeys, but it’s taking action on the more subtle things that will set you apart.

Procurement

This is not an easy one to deal with. Sustainability, like life, will eventually fall prey to the law of diminishing returns. We will all do the easy stuff but the  competitive advantage will be gained by those that consider the hard stuff.  Ultimately, we will have to take into account the carbon footprint of supply chains. If you have your sustainability plan in operation, if you can prove your business is operating sustainably, when your customers start to ask you, as they inevitably will about your policies, having your answers ready will put you ahead of your competition.

As this year turns into next, the word sustainability will not go away. It will become louder and louder, and those who act now will gain the most advantage. B2C retail may see it already as revenue streams from sustainable products, this will add another arm to their business. Those who sell B2B goods will start to see revenue climb from new customers, and keep existing customers because of it, or by the change of procedures you put in place.

This isn’t a blog about my quest to live in a cave to help save the planet. I’m here, living in the real world, doing what I can with what I know.

I’m sure there will be things that I try, but then abandon because they are far too much effort, but if I start early and as my knowledge around sustainability grows, I’m sure my actions will too.

That’s why I’m starting this journey now.

 Jo Vernon
 Business Development Manager