As evidence to support the impact of climate change on the planet mounts and continues to dominate the media landscape, there is a growing expectation from consumers that businesses are doing everything they can to help slow the rate of damage by operating as sustainably as possible.
Added to this consumer pressure, legislation is changing and earlier this year the UK Government announced the sixth Carbon Budget, setting into law the climate change target to reduce emissions by 78% by 2035 compared to 1990 levels, with the overall ambition to become net zero by 2050. While there is currently no legislation for smaller businesses, policy is changing at a rapid pace and will eventually reach smaller companies, so it is recommended to stay ahead and start now. Putting a plan in place now will help you to be more prepared.
Creating a sustainability strategy will involve dedicating time and budget, however the investments made will reap rewards across all areas of the business as well as ensuring compliance with any future legal requirements.
What are the main benefits of having a sustainability strategy?
An increasing number of consumers are paying close attention to the sustainability practices of the businesses from whom they make purchases. Social media and the internet now enable consumers to spread the word about a company’s environmental practices leading to competitive advantage, and if they are seen lacking this may lead to negative publicity and have an impact on brand image. A strong sustainability strategy is also an ideal opportunity to engage external stakeholders, customers and employees.
Compliance with legal regulations
While government regulations requiring businesses to meet set energy targets are several decades away, it is important to start working towards these targets now.
Reducing the amount of waste produced brings with it huge cost savings for businesses.
According to the latest HSBC Navigator report, which surveyed more than 10,000 businesses in 39 markets with 1,000 of those in the UK, more than three quarters (78%) of UK firms expect sales to grow over the next year as a result of increased focus on sustainability.
Attracting potential employees and investors
If businesses are looking to recruit younger, high calibre candidates, some employees may be attracted to firms that they believe to be socially responsible, resulting in higher morale, productivity and loyalty to a firm.
It may feel overwhelming as a small business to know where to start when creating an effective achievable sustainability strategy and we would recommend seeking advice from a sustainability expert, however there are some simple action points that any business can do to make a difference and get started on the journey towards sustainability.
Examples of action areas to focus on:
- Reduce energy bills by switching lights off and turn computers off – use renewable power where possible
- Reduce waste by recycling, minimise paper use by sending emails
- Use sustainable materials in your products, packaging and marketing
- Use local and sustainable suppliers/partners
- Measure and reduce your carbon footprint by walking to work where possible and minimising car travel
- Find and support a local charity/cause which shares the same ethos or has meaning to your business
If you are interested in finding out more about developing a sustainability strategy for your business, a good start would be to speak to a local sustainability consultant. We recently discovered Blue Beagle based in Dorking. The founder, Leo Kane, can be reached on 020 3771 6481.