Sustainable Practices

Creating a sustainable business strategy is not just a good thing to do for the planet and its residents – it also makes excellent business sense. Building and implementing a strategic plan can grow your company, increase ROI and hike near- and long-term profitability. 

It is so key, in fact, that 44 percent of respondents to Grant Thornton LLP’s State of Sustainability in the Food and Beverage Industry Survey rated sustainability as being extremely important or important in their company’s business strategy.

Getting Started 

Sustainable business practices need to start from the top if they are going to be successful. Having C-suite and executives buy-in is essential and educating its stakeholders is the first hurdle for companies moving toward sustainable business practices. Getting this approval can be difficult, as anything involving capital outlay is a hard sell, but there are real financial upsides to making investments in sustainability. There is a clear business as well as social justice case to be made for doing so.

Building sustainable business practices is proving to be so important to industry leaders who are seeing the financial rewards from consumer purchases that it is now become a leading differentiator. Companies leading the way benefit all the way down the chain, from suppliers to customers and businesses that ignore this new reality will fall behind. 

Internally, sustainability efforts enrich the lives of employees who like to work for businesses that demonstrate their social responsibility. In return, businesses get increased productivity and loyalty from their people because of the pride they have in the company. Ultimately, this serves to drive the brand and marketplace share.

Putting a plan in place

Now that you’ve gotten the C-suite on board and all the players understand the importance and rewards of instituting a sustainability program, you’re ready to take the next steps.

1.Do your due diligence. It may seem counterintuitive, but if your company has not yet adopted a sustainability strategy or implemented any practices, don’t start yet. Instead, talk to your accounting firm and work with them to find out what tax and governmental incentives and plans might be available to you. It is important to do this before taking any action on your own because in many cases, federal governmental aid decreases as a company’s demonstrated sustainability practices increase.

Also, see if there are opportunities to partner with a nongovernmental organization to certify your products or get access to knowledge that you don’t have. For example, you can certify certain raw materials by Fairtrade International to bolster the company’s credibility and get a step closer to a more sustainable supply chain. 

2.Go to the source. Just as you scrutinize your incentive and investment potentials, you must also do a deep dive into your company’s relationships with key partners and stakeholders. In particular, it is very important to delve into the practices and products throughout your supply chain. No one can be sustainable on an island. 

It is essential to scour the entire supply chain looking for any problems. More and more companies are realizing that they’ve got to do this. WalMart and The Home Depot, for example, now send out practice questionnaires to suppliers throughout the entire supply chain. 

3. Create a baseline. As you study the links on your supply chain, take a baseline reading of your own company to see where you are starting from in terms of sustainability. Real metrics exist to measure how your business is improving in sustainability, so it’s important to establish the “zero” level for your company.

4. Pick the low-hanging fruit. Sift through areas where you can most easily begin to save money for future investment. Even a relatively minor outlay into new equipment can lead to huge utility savings due to the increased energy efficiency of the product and will also cut your use of fossil fuels. In your HVAC systems, federal incentives drive the actual investment cost down significantly. Further, these products can have increased sustainability value – for example, high-speed low-volume fans, which are often used in dairies, warehouses and food-processing facilities.

5.Take ownership. More and more companies are appointing sustainability officers. Measuring compensation against sustainability performance keeps it at the forefront of the company’s attention. Further, it drives home the message to employees and stakeholders that you are taking social responsibility seriously and treating it as a long-term strategic business element, rather than a short-term tactic.

6. Be realistic. Building a sustainability business plan, implementing it and seeing real, measurable results takes time. 

It is not something that will change overnight and it is important to keep an eye on the long-term goal. We have been going down the wrong path for a long time and it is going to take time to get turned around. 

 

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