Sustainable Business: 2 – Understanding and communicating the business benefits

The pandemic has presented some of us with the time and others the necessity to rethink our priorities and values. It has given many of us a renewed gratitude for the natural environment, an acute awareness of our own fragility, and shocking evidence of the impact of inequality in our society, with higher infection and death in deprived communities and amongst ethnic minorities. It has sharpened our sense of urgency in tackling sustainability – as customers and business leaders.

Climate Change remains the number one long-term risk for businesses, as Larry Fink CEO of Blackrock has highlighted for the second year running in his annual letter to CEO’s.

With fosil fuels now causing 1 in 5 deaths and significant savings to be made by reducing fuel consumption and waste, Climate change risk mitigation and management has never been more crucial.

Customers are increasingly seeking sustainable products and services, and some businesses have seized the commercial opportunities for efficiency, innovation and brand enhancement that a clear sustainability strategy offers.

We know that SME’s will be key to delivering the innovation and adaptation required to deliver the UK Net Zero target by 2050. They make up about 99% of UK businesses, and are the grass roots engines of change.

Yet while many SME’s have recognised the challenge, (and some are leading the way) are SME’s equipped to manage the competing demands on their time and attention to deliver the scale of change needed? Are we truly grasping the fundamental shift in our economic reality, do we understand what this means for leaders, and can we establish a clear and simple route map to deliver the long term change needed?

 

  1. Understanding and communicating the business benefits

 

Meanwhile, you are a business, and understanding the Commercial Benefits of a sustainability strategy will help you win over your team and your accountant.

 

So what are the commercial benefits of a Sustainability Strategy?

 

Customers are increasingly asking about the sustainability of products and expecting organisations to improve. The #WHOMADEMYCLOTHES movement began after the collapse of a building in Bangladesh killing 1,138 workers, many of them children, making clothes for UK household name brands. It calls for a fairer, safer, more transparent fashion industry, and demonstrates how consumers are increasingly informed and challenging unsustainable business practices.

 

Finding ways to reduce consumption and re-use materials also offer significant efficiency savings, in a context of increasing costs of raw materials and rising energy prices. H&M have found offering recycling opportunities can extend and expand their relationship with customers, and deliver efficiency savings in raw materials.

 

Other proven benefits can include a more engaged workforce with lower turnover, and the opportunities for innovation and commercial advantage new technologies offer.

 

When talking to colleagues about sustainability, these opportunities can help focus the mind in a way regulatory requirements and risks that feel a long way off don’t.

 

In next weeks #OoomphSnippets we look at: Leadership is crucial

 

If this series has inspired you to learn more and you are in Cheshire East, Cheshire West and Chester, or the Warrington council areas, come along to the University of Chester’s Sustainable Growth Bootcamp – Big Impact Small Footprint: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sustainable-growth-bootcamp-big-impact-small-footprint-tickets-130582237989

 

 

Words by Sallie Bridgen – Ruby Star Associate…

 

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