The state of the environment impacts business and business impacts the environment. As environmental concerns become more dire, customers are more concerned about how their spending decisions effect the planet. A 2018 Futerra survey found that 88% of customers want businesses to help them achieve a more sustainable lifestyle, but 43% of respondents said that businesses make it harder to live sustainably.
So, what are businesses doing for the environment?
One common response is digitization, which is the transition away from paper to digital files and electronic documentation. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the main reason for illegal forest degradation is logging which is largely used for the production of paper. Every year 18.7 million acres of forest are lost across the world. Eliminating paper can reduce the high levels of deforestation that significantly contributes to the increase of CO2 emissions in the atmosphere.
Another relevant approach is going zero waste to landfill. This method is all about eliminating garbage. The goal is to take all waste, like packaging, old supplies, or broken equipment and find a meaningful way to reuse, recycle, or repurpose those items. In 2017, it was estimated that 4.51 pounds of garbage was produced per person, per day in the US. Consumption is so high, it’s hard to imagine how we can actually produce zero waste. But we can get closer by auditing waste in offices and responding accordingly, like thwarting the use of disposable items.
What your company does for the environment largely depends on how you engage with resources regularly. The success of initiatives also depends on the scale of the new practice. It would be particularly difficult for a small business’s initiatives to a have a nationwide impact, but in offices, there are a lot of common strategies to control environmental waste.
Why Does it Matter?
Not only does sustainability improve customer relationships and attract prospects, making internal changes can benefit your team. David Photiadis, Director, Delphi Group a sustainability consulting group, says employing more environmentally friendly practices provides a better work environment for staff. Initiatives aren’t solely about the environment and the planet, according to Photiadis they “motivate employees and increase productivity.”
Many companies say they’re going to adopt green practices but have not yet actualized those goals. When it comes to sustainability people generally want to make the effort, but they are held back by the comfort of habits like printing emails or throwing recyclable items in garbage bins. The International Institute for Management Development (IMD), found in a study that 90% of executives thought sustainability was important, but only 60% of companies had a sustainable strategy, and 25% had incorporated a sustainable strategy in their business practices. An astonishing 60% of investors said they would divest from companies that aren’t sustainable, yet only 24% of executives view sustainable practices as a competitive advantage despite studies and surveys saying the opposite.
To reap the benefits of adopting environmentally friendly practices, a company must first assess their opportunities. Energy and waste audits can help identify where an organization is using the most resources. Quantify short terms goals and educate your team and customers on what your intentions are and how you plan on achieving them. Try and align your vision with your industry and your customers for greater effect.
Last but not least, evaluate your competition and find an element of sustainability your competitors haven’t considered yet. Whether that means harnessing renewable energy or donating materials in surplus, this will make your company an industry leader.
By considering your relationship with the environment you’re also evaluating your relationship with your customers. By committing to making changes that support sustainable practices you are aligning your vision with most customers and prospects which can support growth, retention, and profitability.