If a company fosters a sustainability mindset and makes it dictate its approach to business management, it leads to cost reduction, the formation of a new consumer base, and the development of talent in the organization. A company that embeds a sustainability mindset receives a long-term goal that will be consistent with its core business and strengths and motivate its employees and contractors.
But what it takes to develop a sustainability mindset and embed it in organizational business thinking? And what makes it a worthwhile investment?
Evolution of Consumerism
The anthropogenic impact on the environment and the danger of greenhouse gas accumulation became the subject of public debate as far back as the 1970s. However, it is only in the next decade that the wave of consumerism swept the developed countries bringing the topic to the spotlight.
Since the effects of rampant consumption began to knock on virtually every door, it became the matter of concern not only to scientists and eco-warriors, but also the generation of millennials. At the same time, the last decade is the time when millennials have become the main target group for producers of goods.
Today, according to a Nielsen study, 81% of people all over the world are convinced that businesses should care about the environment. This topic has become an important factor affecting decision-making.
These new realities and growing demand for green products open up additional business opportunities. The desire to care for the environment, implemented at the level of not just reputation decisions, but key business processes, should help strengthen the business in the long term.
Switching to safer energy schemes and striving for locality help reduce costs and free up capital for necessary improvements and adaptation to changing living conditions. The offer of new products, created in balance with the environment, will satisfy the demands of more exigent customers who are increasingly considering where, how and from what materials goods are made. For serious changes, there is still not enough critical mass of such consumers, but the green consumerism rate is growing steadily and gives the whole system a chance to change before it is too late.
Sustainable Business Thinking
Any company, one way or another, will have to face the problem of economical and rational use of resources. This way, it is not only and not so much how the business can have an impact on the sustainable existence of humanity, but also how the resolution of issues related to sustainability affects the business.
Here are the five key arguments for aligning a company’s operations with sustainability principles:
1. Prices for resources are constantly growing; thus, companies that competently and economically manage resources (in accordance with the principles of sustainability) will be much less dependent on price changes.
2. Consumers, customers, shareholders, governments – they all pay great attention to sustainability.
3. Government and authorities promote and support a focus on sustainability. Accordingly, companies operating on the principles of sustainability will suffer less from changes in legislation and the introduction of mandatory sustainability reporting.
4. Stock markets also attach great importance to sustainability; it serves as one of the criteria for evaluating companies when making investment decisions.
5. The sooner the company accepts the principles of sustainability and considers sustainability education to be strategically important or necessary for its employees, the greater its chances of being among the pioneer leaders, and the more difficult it will be for competitors to keep up with it.
Shifting to a Sustainably-Minded Business
To build an effective strategy for sustainable development, it is important to choose the most efficient approaches to doing business. Consider the following basic recommendations:
1. Identify significant issues that represent either strategic threats or new opportunities for the company.
2. Define the ambitions and goals of the company: where do you see your company on the corporate governance maturity scale?
3. Set the right tone: consumers are usually skeptical of companies that are only declaring their intentions for sustainable development. All public statements of the company must be accompanied by real facts and figures.
4. Determine what processes are happening as part of your company’s strategy: what works? what does not work? why and how to fix it?
5. Identify key external and internal stakeholders and conduct a dialogue with them to highlight significant issues.
6. Design and implement effective programs to manage identified significant issues. Investments in sustainable development have a number of financial advantages; moreover, they are very effective for risk management.
In the transition to a new style of work, one inevitably has to reconsider many things. The principles of sustainability mindset force us to study not a single operation of the company, but the whole system. In addition to new knowledge, such a view significantly expands the horizon and makes it possible to find new solutions and identify issues that have not been noticed earlier.
As mentioned above, all companies will sooner or later have to restructure their work style in accordance with the principles of sustainability. The sooner this happens, the greater the advantage the company will receive, the more likely this company will occupy a leading position in the market.