Over the past two decades, sustainability has become more than a fad or just a buzz word. Research shows that sustainability has real business benefits when conscientiously integrated into business operations. Five major advantages for practicing sustainability are:
1. Being sustainable improved brand image and competitive advantage. Surveying more than 53,000 U.S. consumers, the Natural Marketing Institute discovered that 58 percent of consumers consider a company’s impact on the environment in considering where to purchase goods and services and are more likely to purchase from companies that practice sustainable habits. That translates into a client base of 68 million Americans who are favorably predisposed to companies showing positive track records in personal, social, and environmental values.
2. Sustainability increases productivity and reduce costs. Critics of sustainability claim that sustainable business practices eat into corporate profit. Development of sustainable business practices lends itself to efficient operation that streamlines effort and conserves resources, which enhances employee productivity and reduces cost. Reducing cost also encompasses energy conservation strategies that can be as simple as turning off unnecessary lights and insulating walls to more sophisticated efforts such as installation of geothermal heating and cooling systems.
3. Increase business ability to comply with regulation. With all the discussion regarding climate change, dwindling energy resources, and environmental impact, it’s no surprise that state and federal government agencies are enacting regulations to protect the environment. Integrating sustainability into your business will position it to meet changing regulations in a timely manner.
4. Sustainable companies attract employees and investors. People like to be associated with the positive, especially younger generations raised on a steady diet of environmental protection messages. They do not want to be linked to companies implicated in ecological disasters and social welfare scandals. Show your company as respectful of the environment and of its employees and it will attract the caliber of people whom you want to employ and the funds your business needs to expand.
5. Sustainability reduces waste. This is likely the simplest and most obvious way to engage in sustainable practices. Beginning in the 1990s with offices collecting empty cans for recycling, the effort has grown to encompass waste mitigation in paper (conserving trees and forest habitats), value engineering of products (reworking or developing new processes that use less raw materials, waste less material in production of goods), to changing out incandescent lights for LED lights (greater efficiency combined with fewer bulbs used).
The old truism that anything easy isn’t worthwhile applies to sustainability. It takes dedication, commitment, and follow-through from the president to the employees to jump on board the sustainability bandwagon and make it succeed. However, if your business can do it, morale and productivity will improve even as sales increase and costs decrease. It’s the ultimate win-win achievement for the business owners, the consumers, and the employees. “We are witnessing an important shift in how companies in the United States view sustainability,” Gerald Walker, CEO of ING Americas, said. “Our research shows that it is no longer just about cutting costs or creating positive brand awareness — sustainability strategies are being deployed as true revenue drivers.”
Sustainability strategies are starting to play an integral part in overall growth strategies, with 48 percent of executives reporting that sustainability concerns have at least some influence over a business’s growth strategy.