With sustainability being the word on many business leaders’ lips right now for this reason, knowing what it really means for you and your business can be tough given much of the narrative around us tends to focus around “green” and net zero alone. Many people have become “Carbon tunnel visioned”, and whilst there is nothing wrong with starting your journey looking at your carbon footprint, reducing our emissions and overall aiming to be at zero carbon by a set date - the true meaning of a sustainable future means you will need to consider the full scope covering all three of the key criteria - Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).
With the rise of ESG in our world today, and many more businesses attaining or considering B Corp accreditation, a great place to begin this journey - if you are wondering where to start - is to look at the UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and which are important to you and your company.
So - how do you ensure you are “fit for the future” whilst covering all the angles that make you a sustainable proposition? You begin with the people around you, and you work together to decide where you are going and how you are going to get there.
There are some clear areas to consider along the way - there will be some legislative requirements to fulfil, and most definitely some personal aims you will want to achieve. Going beyond the important environmental crisis we are all facing, embracing sustainability ensures we are considering all our key stakeholders as well as the good governance needed to build a sustainable business fit for the future.
We will explore the importance of putting the societal and economic needs to work alongside the environmental elements, recognising the importance of an inclusive company culture that unites colleagues behind a shared ethos - or your purpose.
Doing so requires the right tools and frameworks to ensure this all integrates across any organisation, big or small, so that everyone feels empowered to make the right decisions to contribute to future business growth. Bringing together the organisational culture, the strategy through a leadership style and sustainable business practices that truly benefit the workforce is where the magic happens.
Whether it’s suppliers, workers, customers or investors it is becoming increasingly important for each of them to understand the way you go about business and the products or services you offer - and how they fit into your sustainability agenda, so they can make informed choices to supply you, work for you, buy from you or fund you.
People want to buy from “good” businesses, and are placing more importance upon, and scrutiny behind finding brands and organisations who are clear on their purpose - aligning to their own values and ethics. They are rewarding those with more sustainable and inclusive practices with their custom and loyalty.
Having an effective ESG strategy built using one of the key frameworks available to structure the thinking within your business really can pay dividends in attracting new clients or customers, helping to differentiate you from the competition, offering growth through purpose and giving access to new and different sectors of the marketplace. Integrating ESG into any business is now becoming fundamental for businesses to ensure they are truly part of their community - and making a healthy profit does not have to come at the expense of respecting people and the environment around them.
Building relationships with local and ethical suppliers is key moving forwards, given the impact this has on your companies reputation now and in the future - the value chain is core to your operational and business success and is coming under more scrutiny from every stakeholder.
A sustainable business is a resilient business - an attractive and engaging place to work, retaining loyal staff for many years; more appealing to customers who seek to buy from companies who show a real commitment to the things they believe in as much as the quality, price or convenience which not so long ago were the only purchasing considerations; a real part of any community supporting the whole ecosystem that exists. So it makes good commercial sense - focusing upon People, Planet and Profit, making sure you’re considering the Triple Bottom Line when it comes to making an impact.
We all need to scale the impact of SME’s who are thinking about sustainability - given their collective size and significance to bring about change for the better by working together with a focus upon eco-social improvements. We already know the science and have many good solutions, but none of us needs to be scientists or scholars to start or continue with the vital work to build sustainable business. It’s about empowering the people around us to make the difference by moving faster to implement the things we know work.
Bringing sustainability to your business starts with setting an overall vision and having the necessary steps - small yet consistent - to put in place a long term way of working in every part of the organisation and its interfaces. This process and tracking the progress will embed this into everyone's awareness as well as routine - so it becomes part of everyday life.
This will only happen if we connect the dots and bring about a coordinated contribution to the challenge, keeping in our sights the things which matter. Imperfect action is still infinitely better than perfect inaction so it’s important to get going, start the journey and keep the momentum by holding ourselves and each other to account. We are all change agents, so let's go ahead and make a positive impact - doing less bad and more good.
Maia Growth Partners will talk about their concept of “thinking impact back” - and using business as a force for good to address the “good intentions” gap, starting with what we already know about ourselves, where we want to get to, and how we plan to get there. The journey and the people around you are all important - every stakeholder will be part of the process as it becomes ingrained in the way you operate moving forward. Seeing how others have made a start and what they have achieved often helps to fuel the sustainability engines whilst offering some top tips around what these might be, and how you might implement these into your own business and way of working.
Can you afford not to make an impact for the future of your business?
There's an opportunity to listen to Maia Growth Partners during a mini-series of three webinars which consider the impact your organisation can make within your organisation, with your customers and the wider community. Register to join live or watch again 'on demand':