Increasingly, businesses are making strategic decisions around the type and extent of their corporate sustainability policies. This comes as individuals, community organisations and governments are all prioritising sustainability more and more as an essential aspect of any corporate or social policy. Organisations that have been proactive are already reaping significant benefits from their forward looking practices.
Yet sustainability can have a variety of meanings, depending on the business context. In terms of the environment, sustainability may mean ensuring that natural resources are replaced or conserved for the long term and that ecosystems are not harmed. In terms of employment practices, sustainability may mean ensuring that employees are paid enough and given sufficient benefits to build families and contribute to their communities. And in the context of business practices, sustainability may simply mean that the overall corporate policies are not self-defeating or dangerous to the organisation’s long term well-being and reputation.
Embracing environmentally sustainable business practices can have a number of significant benefits. Sustainable businesses are often the most innovative because they are constantly reviewing processes to find new solutions. In contrast, other organisations are more likely to simply stick with the processes that have worked in the past, without considering better and greener alternatives. Eco-conscious businesses also generally have employees who are more invested in the business culture, which provides more fulfilling jobs. The focus on ensuring sustainability also builds a culture of accountability throughout the organisation.
More importantly, though, consumers increasingly don’t shop for products, but instead they shop for companies. Businesses that have a mission of environmental sustainability can build a reputation with consumers as eco-friendly. And as much as 25% of consumer behaviour is led by reputation. As awareness and activism around environmental issues increases, businesses that are proactive in building sustainable practices are the most likely to find themselves succeeding.
Businesses with strategies that are sustainable in the long run pay their workers salaries and benefits that allow them to live a sustainable life within their community. This builds loyalty within the organisation, benefiting the company through increased productivity and creativity, as well as lower levels of fraud and mismanagement. Employees are also more likely to develop and take part in longer term projects that have higher payoffs. With a sustainable income, employees are able to stay with the organisation longer and are more motivated to actively market products and services with consumers in their community, as well as sell the organisation to potential job seekers. This in turn leads to a workforce with greater skills and more motivation.
Sustainable business practices
Sustainable business practices are an essential part of corporate risk management. Fundamental to this philosophy is that any process that holds real potential to damage the overall corporate reputation, no matter how profitable, must be viewed with extreme skepticism. Depending on the corporation, this can entail ensuring that all businesses connected through the supply chain engage in ethical practices, sourcing materials that can be certified as environmentally friendly, not engaging in business with countries or organisations with bad reputations, or simply ensuring that it will be possible to continue producing all of the business’ products and services into the future.
Sustainability is an issue confronting all businesses today, no matter their size or place in the marketplace. Increasingly, businesses are finding that embracing sustainable practices leads to better corporate culture, more reliable products and greater long term profitability.