What can your business do to be ‘more sustainable’?
As a responsible business in New Zealand, it's becoming increasingly crucial to integrate sustainable practices into your business operations. Sustainability goes beyond being a mere buzzword; it encompasses numerous components and concepts. In light of our planet's environmental issues, now is a great time to start to incorporate sustainability into your operational practices by minimising your business's environmental impact and reducing your environmental footprint.
Sustainability is a broad concept that involves various practices and strategies aimed at achieving long-term economic, social, and environmental goals. Sustainability is the ability to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the context of business development, sustainability involves adopting practices that promote economic growth while also minimising negative impacts on the environment and society. This includes reducing waste, conserving resources, supporting circular economic growth, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also involves promoting diversity and inclusion within the organisation and pursuing certifications and accreditations that demonstrate a commitment to sustainability.
Phew. We get that this is a lot and can be overwhelming. So where do you start?
Below, we provide you with 10 ideas for your business to become more ‘sustainable’:
1. Measure your carbon emissions.
One of the crucial steps towards reducing your environmental impact is to measure your carbon emissions. This will enable you to identify which areas of your business are responsible for the highest carbon emissions (i.e., greenhouse gas emissions) and where you can make the most significant progress in reducing your emissions and focus on areas where you can make the most significant impact. Once measured, you can set targets for reducing them and monitor your progress towards achieving targets. This will help you create a sustainable business model and demonstrate your commitment to mitigating climate change.
2. Reduce Energy Consumption
After measuring your carbon emissions, it's important to identify the sources of energy consumption in your business. This can be achieved by conducting an energy audit with the help of a qualified expert. An energy audit will enable you to identify any areas of excessive energy loss and provide you with recommendations on how to reduce your energy consumption. By reducing your energy consumption, you can reduce your carbon footprint, save money on energy bills, and demonstrate your commitment to sustainability. Some ways to reduce energy consumption include using energy-efficient lighting, switching off equipment when not in use, using renewable energy sources, and optimising your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. Implementing these measures can have a significant impact on your business's environmental performance and contribute towards creating a more sustainable future.
If your business requires significant investment to reduce carbon emissions and transition towards a more sustainable model, there may be co-funding opportunities for you. Governments and other organisations offer various funding options to support businesses in their decarbonisation efforts. By taking advantage of these funding opportunities, businesses can reduce their financial burden and accelerate their transition towards sustainability. It's advisable to research and stay informed about the available funding options to take advantage of them effectively.
4. Life cycle assessment of products you sell
If your business manufactures products, conducting a life cycle assessment (LCA) can be a valuable tool to measure the sustainability of your products. LCA is a systematic analysis of the environmental impacts of a product throughout its life cycle, from raw material extraction to end-of-life disposal. By conducting an LCA, you can identify the most significant environmental impacts of your product and prioritise actions to reduce them. This may include using sustainable materials, reducing energy consumption during production, optimising packaging design, and improving end-of-life disposal. LCA can also help you communicate the sustainability of your product to your customers and stakeholders, which can enhance your brand reputation and contribute to a more sustainable future. Ensure you are transparent and honest about any claims you make regarding your environmental performance to avoid greenwashing.
5. Promote Sustainable Transportation
Another way to reduce the environmental impact of your business is to promote sustainable transportation. Encouraging your employees to use public transportation, carpool, or use bikes to commute to work can significantly reduce your company's carbon footprint. Incentivise employees to use sustainable transportation methods, such as offering parking spaces for bicycles or providing public transportation passes.
6. Reduce Waste
Reducing waste is another essential component of sustainable business operations. You can begin by minimising paper usage, promoting recycling, and reducing the use of single-use plastics. Adopting a circular economy approach can also help reduce waste by designing products for reuse, repair, or recycling. Additionally, you can implement composting and food donation programs to reduce food waste. Reducing waste not only benefits the environment but can also save your business money by cutting disposal costs and reducing the need to purchase new materials. By implementing waste reduction strategies, you can demonstrate your commitment to sustainability and contribute to a more sustainable future.
7. Source Responsibly (scope 3 emissions)
Sourcing materials and products responsibly can minimise the environmental impact of your business. By choosing to work with suppliers that use sustainable materials and promote sustainable production practices, you can reduce your environmental footprint and promote sustainable business practices. Additionally, investing in locally sourced products can help reduce transportation-related emissions and support local communities. It's also important to consider the entire lifecycle of a product, from sourcing to disposal, and choose suppliers that prioritise sustainability throughout the supply chain.
8. Educate Your Employees and Customers
Education is a critical component of promoting sustainability in your business operations. It's essential to educate your employees on the importance of sustainability and how they can contribute to it. This can include providing training on waste reduction, energy efficiency, sustainable transportation, and responsible procurement practices. Additionally, involving employees in sustainability initiatives, such as setting up a green team or organising a sustainability challenge, can help to create a culture of sustainability within your company
It's also important to educate your customers on your sustainability initiatives and how they can support your efforts. This can include promoting eco-friendly products, providing information on the environmental impact of your products or services, and encouraging customers to adopt sustainable practices in their own lives. By educating your employees and customers, you can raise awareness about the importance of sustainability.
9. Engage in Community Outreach
Engaging in community outreach is an excellent way to promote sustainability in your business operations and demonstrate your commitment to our future. By participating in local environmental programs and initiatives, you can help to create a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable community. Organising clean-up drives and supporting local conservation efforts can also help to raise awareness about the importance of sustainability and inspire others to take action.
Additionally, community outreach can help to strengthen relationships with local stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, as well as with your own staff. By demonstrating your commitment to sustainability, you can build trust and enhance your reputation as a responsible business. This can help to attract new customers, increase employee engagement, and drive long-term business success.
10. Measure your Progress
Using metrics such as carbon footprint, energy consumption, and waste generation can provide valuable information for tracking progress and identifying areas where improvements can be made. By regularly measuring and monitoring these metrics, businesses can track their progress towards sustainability goals and adjust their strategies accordingly.
Share your progress to stakeholders, including customers, investors, and employees, to build trust and demonstrate a commitment to sustainability. By measuring progress and sharing results, businesses can engage stakeholders and encourage continued support for sustainability initiatives.
Our recommendation is that before embarking on a new project or initiative, it's beneficial to establish a baseline of your current status. This enables you to gauge the impact of any changes you implement. The phrase "what gets measured gets managed" highlights the importance of measuring and monitoring your progress, as it allows you to effectively manage and improve your performance. By establishing a baseline, you can identify areas that require attention, set achievable goals, and track your progress towards achieving them. Ultimately, this approach helps to ensure that you're moving in the right direction.
Sustainability should be a top priority for businesses looking to create a better future for all. By implementing the sustainability recommendations discussed in this article, businesses can reduce your environmental impact and improve your bottom line.
Overall, implementing sustainable business practices is not only good for the environment but also beneficial for businesses in the long run. By committing to sustainability, businesses can differentiate themselves from competitors, build trust with stakeholders, and create a better future for all.