7 Sustainable Business Practices Every Employee Should Know
It’s important to review and execute these sustainable business practices. Read all the details below,
In a surprising turn of events, one of the biggest and most important consumer trends to grow in profitability and relevance in 2020 and beyond is sustainability. Consumers are more socially – and climate-conscious than ever, and less brand loyal than ever.
As millions of prospective customers become more and more accustomed to the ever-expanding global market created by e-commerce, they begin to make choices not only based on availability and cost, but also on company culture, social stances, and commitment to social and environmental problem solving.
On one hand, the trend away from pure financial pragmatism and towards social responsibility is a step in the right direction for a generation that promises to be more climate conscious. On the other, it also signals the need for a greater investment in sustainability practices.
What Does Business Sustainability Represent?
Take the basic principle of Japanese Zen Buddhism: equanimity with nature and oneself. Business sustainability is surprisingly similar. It’s about reducing one’s negative impact on society and the environment, and, at the very least, leaving the environment as it was (if not making a net positive possible).
The Harvard Business School further helps defined a sustainable business as one that places equal value on three bottom lines: people, planet, and profit.
How Can Sustainable Practices Be Individualized?
Sustainable business practices, like many large, fundamental paradigm changes, are made up of incremental decisions by each and every professional throughout the chain of command. That includes every employee working to bring sustainability goals closer to reality.
A big part of that is honing the skills needed to promote sustainability within your business and company culture – and seeking these skills out among new hires.
1. Strong Fundamental Knowledge
Knowledge is the foundation on which everything else will be built – but unlike most foundations, sustainability knowledge should be fluid. Learn to absorb and retain new information, process new data, and take into account changes that might upset your plans, or require you to shift your sustainability goals.
Being knowledgeable means learning about new sustainability practices and methods, petitioning to implement them in the office or business at large, being aware of your company’s overall carbon emission level – and realistic ways to reduce it, while still bringing about the same level of service your customers expect.
It means getting the higher ups to finance a formal sustainability audit to get a clear idea of where your business stands environmentally and socially, and what you can do right now to improve.
2. Ability to Identify Opportunities
An important skill to hone is the ability to determine a balance between tackling your biggest offenses, and taking the steps needed to introduce quick and actionable change.
For example, if your business relies on fossil fuels to produce its main product, it might take a lot of time or a huge investment in novel technology to continue producing at the same capacity with alternative energy sources.
However, you can make an immediate difference by making sure your manufacturing facilities and offices are utilizing energy more efficiently, cutting costs and your carbon footprint in the process.
3. Creative Problem-Solving Skills
The ability to think outside the box is invaluable when setting sustainability practices into motion.
Not only will you need to embrace your own knack for creative problem-solving but prioritizing creative problem-solving allows you to promote a culture of embracing forward thinking and creative employees, those who are more likely to thrive under a supportive environment and will be more likely to come forward with ideas that they might not feel as comfortable pitching in a more negative and cynical environment.
4. Pitching Skills
Coming up with potential solutions is one thing. Pitching them to the people holding the money is another. Sustainability is good, but it must always be tempered by the expectations that come with business. Shareholders and vested interests want to know they can turn a profit, and that their investment will have a significant return.
Calculating the return on investment on any potential sustainability endeavor is one thing, but you must also prepare investors for the value of goodwill. Create your pitch by gathering data on your consumer base and their specific interests in sustainability, source data from surveys and polls among your customers asking for interest in environmentally- or socially conscious campaigns and products, gauge interest by shifting your marketing towards sustainability-focused buzzwords, and figure out whether there’s an entire market you could be cornering by capitalizing on the lack of sustainability in your particular industry. These are all important factors that help fill out a pitch to investors or shareholders.
5. Cut the Commute
You can massively reduce the carbon footprint of your business by going remote. Instead of leasing yet another office in a new location, consider rerouting new hires to coworking places instead, where they can collaborate in a shared space that is efficiently used by dozens of professionals and different teams.
6. Data Analysis and Visualization
Basic data skills are crucial for bringing sustainability practices into the fold. You can’t expect your business to commit to changes made purely out of humanitarian interest – remember, it’s about maintaining an equal concern for the planet, people, and profit to remain competitive.
This means tracking the results of your sustainability efforts, analyzing the data to figure out how you can most effectively and most realistically make new sustainability efforts grow, and tracking consumer sentiment to figure out what causes your particular audience cares about the most.
As an example, certain industries have a direct impact on the extinction of local species. Investing in local conservation efforts or working with local conservation can help give you a sympathetic edge while ensuring that some of your profit is spent on doing both an environmental good and earning goodwill.
7. Intraoperative Communication Skills
Communication is central to making any sustainability proposal a reality, both within the company and in society at large. But you need to be better at more than just talking to others or pitching to groups and individuals. You will need to master interoperative communication.
That means approaching and tackling problems by identifying the things that stand in the way of making the right decision – such as low profit incentive, or a lack of understanding on the importance of sustainability for a modern business’ reputation and long-term profitability – and eliminating these problems at the source through impassionate arguments led by real data, statistics, and personal questions – e.g. “what legacy do you wish to leave behind for your children?”
Sustainable Business Practices Conclusion
At the heart of all business sustainability is the understanding that if we aim to be around for a very long time, we must take care of those around us, and the world we live in – and that taking this stance aligns with current consumer interests.