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Building A Sustainable Business For The Future

Sustainability is more than "going green." Learn how your organization can balance tackling environmental, social, and ethical concerns to build a sustainable business—one that is equipped for the future.

Three variables determine organizational success: how well an organization operates with its employees, customers, and communities in mind (both local and global).

The latter half of the above statement, operating with the community in mind, is often an afterthought because organizations are unaware of how to serve the community while still focusing on their employees and customers.

The solution lies in building a sustainable business that will stand the test of time. A sustainable business addresses environmental, social, and ethical concerns. Concerns that, if handled correctly, will have a lasting impact on an organization’s employees and customers — right down to the communities they serve. 

In addressing these diverse concerns, from workplace diversity to charitable fundraising, organizations will naturally become community-minded, employee-centric, and customer-oriented.

This blog explores some of the environmental, social, and ethical concerns your organization can start addressing to move the needle on becoming a sustainable business:

1. Addressing environmental concerns

A. Waste management practices

As a business, the following waste management steps could help to future-proof your business:

  • Switch to reusable, recyclable, and compostable materials in your production processes.
  • Work toward paperless business practices, encouraging employees and stakeholders to use digital forms of communication.
  • Consider upcycling or selling old equipment and furniture in your office.
  • Promote a sustainable corporate culture, giving employees the knowledge and resources they need to reduce their environmental impact on the planet.

B. Eco-friendly travel policies

Travel represents a vital part of business operations for many businesses, particularly those with stakeholders in many different countries. Wherever possible, you should encourage employees and clients to reduce their carbon footprint while traveling. As part of this strategy, you could:

  • Reduce overseas travel by hosting more virtual meetings.
  • Allow employees to work from home, i.e., implementing a hybrid model.
  • Encourage employees and stakeholders to use more sustainable forms of transportation, such as biking to work or taking other forms of public transportation when possible.

C. Supply chain efficiency

You can minimize your company’s environmental impact by paying attention to all the steps involved in developing and manufacturing your product.

If your supply chain involves extensive transportation of goods, for example, your carbon footprint will be relatively high. Similarly, sourcing raw materials from certain parts of the world could have more damaging impacts than sourcing them from places where such materials are abundant.

Consumers especially care about where the clothes they wear and the electronics they rely on are made. Therefore, make sure you are as transparent as possible with them on the changes you are making to improve your current supply chain.

2. Addressing social concerns

A. Encourage volunteerism in the workplace

Giving back to the community demonstrates that your business is about more than profit and will enhance faith in your brand. Beyond donating cash to community initiatives, you could encourage volunteerism by offering employees paid volunteer days. A workplace volunteering policy will enhance employees’ skills, improve their mental health, and make them feel more fulfilled in their careers. In the long term, this will improve employee morale, reduce turnover rates, and boost productivity.

To make this strategy a success, it’s a good idea to ask employees about the types of causes they would like to support and how often they would like to volunteer. An employee volunteer survey will help you glean valuable insights to ensure your workplace volunteer program is the best it can be.

B. Building partnerships with nonprofits

Nonprofit-corporate partnerships enable businesses to get involved with nonprofits in their communities, lending a helping hand to assist with any volunteer, fundraising, or donation opportunities that the cause may need.

It is worthwhile to explore a variety of causes that are meaningful to both your business and employees; however, choosing 3-4 nonprofits that you can help consistently will allow you to build a partnership that flourishes.

C. Executing employee-led CSR programs

As companies aim to become more socially responsible, there are several factors that are typically managed by top-level employees. However, giving your employees autonomy to help mould certain aspects of your CSR program will result in greater involvement and yield better results.

An employee-led CSR program enables employees to choose causes they support, find individual volunteer opportunities, share their progress, and provide feedback to their managers.

Three colleagues chatting with their laptops

3. Addressing ethical concerns

A. Building a diverse and inclusive workforce

It’s your responsibility to ensure your workforce is diverse and one where all of your employees feel valued, respected, and comfortable. With 67% of job seekers considering workplace diversity as a top factor when considering employment opportunities, embracing inclusivity is imperative for setting your company up for a sustainable future.

If you’re looking to boost inclusivity, you could try some of the following strategies:

  • Advertise vacancies across a range of job boards that actively work to recruit a diverse workforce.
  • Establish mentorship programs for people from less privileged communities.
  • Promote your commitment to diversity on your vacancies page and encourage people from underrepresented communities to apply.

B. Offering equal opportunities to employees

Nurturing a fair and welcoming work environment removes the invisible barriers preventing certain employees from reaching their full potential. For example, to ensure everyone’s voice is heard, you could set up initiatives that allow every employee to voice their opinions, i.e., monthly all-hands meetings where opinions are encouraged, giving employees a safe space to speak up.

Similarly, you should ensure that all employees have an equal opportunity to secure promotions, bonuses, and professional development courses. For instance, you can purchase a Learning Management Software (LMS) and circulate the link to all employees, allowing them to choose from various courses that will improve their hard skills.

C. Treating all stakeholders fairly

As well as treating employees fairly, you must consider whether you are treating your other stakeholders fairly. When focusing on consumers, you may wish to consider whether your marketing strategies promote fairness and inclusivity. Are your advertising materials accessible to people with limited sight? Do your products cater to people of all abilities, sizes, or ages?

Another focus should be building a diverse Board of directors with different backgrounds, experiences, and viewpoints. Due to their varied perspectives, these inclusive boards can contribute a valuable range of opinions and suggestions that otherwise wouldn’t be presented in a homogeneous board.

A sustainable business is much more than going green. Striking a balance between tackling various environmental, ethical, and social concerns— and maintaining your commitment to focusing on the community, consumers, and employees—is the true definition of building a sustainable business for the future.

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