So What Is Business Sustainability?
According to Harvard Business Review, sustainability in business refers to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community or society as a whole.
The goal of a sustainable business is to improve the impact a business has on the environment and society. This can be done by paying more attention to these areas when making business decisions. Especially decisions that are likely to have an environmental, economic or social impact. It can often involve considering sustainability as an additional ‘bottom line’.
In construction, this can involve looking more at the specific materials you use, the supply chain for those materials and the environment in which you are building.
Why Is It Important To Understand My Business Sustainability?
1. It’s What The Planet Needs
As we face changes in the earth’s ecosystem, the threat of climate change is becoming too difficult for businesses and governments to ignore. Businesses are seeing greater pressure and more opportunity to be sustainable or at least adhere to governmental targets.
The United Nations General Assembly provides a roadmap for sustainability for businesses through the sustainable development goals (SDGs). These cover sustainable industrialisation and innovation along with making businesses more responsible for consumption and product processes.
It’s not just wider aims, specific industry expectations are also being tightened. The UK government in 2021 set strict construction rules regarding the Future Homes Standard, with all newly built homes needing to be highly energy efficient, have low carbon heating and being net zero ready by 2025 – lowering the carbon emissions in construction by 75-80%.
With growing environmental threats, whereas once sustainability was a nice to have, it’s now vital businesses take it seriously.
2. Protect Your Brand And Mitigate Risk
Allowing your business to engage in non-ethical and sustainable practices can be a sure-fire way of ending up with negative brand exposure. Not only does this severely damage an organisation’s reputation and customer base, but it diverts valuable resources away from your core business objectives.
By highlighting clear evidence of the sustainability of your business culture, model and its products, you will be looked on favourably in the public eye and allow you to build a brand based on good, positive values.
3. Embrace A Growing Market
Understanding how to be more sustainable and embedding sustainable business practices into your products and services could gain you market share. The number of consumers interested in working with sustainable businesses is growing rapidly.
Labelling your business as ‘green’ and backing this up with credible claims will likely lead to better engagement with potential customers.
A 2023 report suggested 82% of shoppers wanted brands to embrace sustainable and people-first practices, with the upcoming Gen-Z audience focused more on this than ever before, and willing to pay more for more sustainable services or products that contain sustainable ingredients.
4. Better Understand Your Wider Business
By investing time in understanding how sustainable your business is, it forces you to look at your supply chain, processes and procedures giving you a wider understanding of your business operations and allowing you to be more efficient. Looking at your data with a new lens can be an ideal way to do this.
‘Once a company has made the decision to be more sustainable, it will need data. Firstly to pinpoint the causes of unsustainable actions, then to monitor and evidence improvement.’ says Heike Schuster-James, Partnerships Manager at Birmingham City University.
‘Secondly to evidence the company’s carbon footprint or the embodied carbon of individual products or services to supply chain or customers. To do this well, any company needs to have the underlying skillset to analyse and interpret its data.’ There are many business support opportunities out there to help businesses to do this, including the Ecrofit workshop programme.
5. Reap More Benefits
Understanding your sustainability and acting on it can lead to further benefits for your business from efficiency to profitability. A 2014 study of S&P 500 companies found that businesses that build sustainability into their core strategies outperformed those that ignored it. Companies that actively managed and planned for climate change secured 18% higher return on investment than companies who didn’t.
There Is Sustainability Support Out There
So if you’ve decided better understanding of the sustainability of your business is important, don’t fear there is support out there. For construction and built environment businesses you can access specific funded workshop programmes, or get additional funding to help you achieve your ambitions. Importantly, its crucial businesses recognise sustainability as an important aspect of their business and one they should fully understand.