Five sustainable business practices to increase long-term business success

Sustainability in business matters. Sustainability goes far beyond being green - it encompasses environmental, social and economic factors. All of these elements must work together for a true business sustainability strategy. 

What’s more, there’s no time like the present to embrace sustainability practices in your own business. A 2017 international study revealed that a third of consumers (33%) now choose to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. Further research shows that more than 90% of CEOs now believe sustainability is crucial for success.

If you're looking for new ways to increase your chances of long-term business success, then here are five sustainable business practice ideas to get you started.

1. Step up and protect your brand

Consumers want to engage with responsible businesses, so it’s time for companies to step up and be accountable. This consumer expectation of social purpose is growing, and companies need to urgently respond or risk the viability of their brand. 

Larry Fink, chairman of BlackRock, explains, "The public expectations of your company have never been greater. Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose."

Tiffany Apczynski, vice president of public policy and social impact at Zendesk also links sustainability to the start-up scene. Tiffany believes “start-ups and social responsibility go hand in hand. At the end of the day they need there to be a successful world for their product to grow and mature.” 
Stepping up may also bring about a competitive advantage. “When you’re in that incubation phase you actually have a huge opportunity to build social mindedness into how you’re going to grow your organisation,” Apczynski says.

Therefore, your first step is simply making a commitment to sustainability and ensuring that you have proper steps in place to secure the viability of your brand now, and into the future.

2. Assess your impact, then take action

To turn your commitment into action, begin by assessing your current environmental impact with an audit. This can highlight how your business affects the environment and help set targets for improvement, such as saving energy and water. Incorporate the use of products that reduce your need to rely on natural resources, such as solar hot water systems, use products made from recycled materials, and remove toxic chemicals. 

These sustainable trends are here to stay, with 88% of business school students believing these issues are priorities in business. Business Victoria and Business Queensland both offer useful guides for implementing various sustainability practices, such as tips for creating a green building and a checklist for designing sustainable products.

3. Do things differently

Take a look at all your business purchases and activities. What can you do differently? A quick win for your business could be to move to video-conferencing instead of travelling interstate for meetings. Consider how you might also implement new initiatives. For instance, is there the potential to create a position for a Sustainability Officer or to develop a sustainable product or service?

4. Find like-minded suppliers and partners

When you have the same ethos as your suppliers, chances are that together, you are creating a better customer experience and enhancing the reputation of both businesses. Do your research; could you be sourcing locally? Do you work with suppliers who share your views on environmental impact? As a business leader, it’s crucial you engage with this process, particularly if your business works with complex supply chains. Who you choose to work with sends a strong message about who you are as a business and what you stand for. 

For example, the partnership that exists between Woolworths and OzHarvest is mutually beneficial, explains Brad Banducci, Managing Director. “Woolworths is a part of nearly every community and our extended partnership with OzHarvest is a great way for us to help those in need while at the same time reducing waste.” 

Ronni Khan, OzHarvest CEO agrees. “This partnership will allow OzHarvest to divert even more surplus food from landfill and further help Australians in need, addressing the broader issues of food waste, sustainability and food security.” 

5. Communicate your message

Foster support from your internal and external communities. To get staff on board, involve them in conversations around business sustainability and ask for their suggestions. Pay attention to what you share with your customers on social media and in press releases as it significantly impacts brand perception. 

Consumers are ready for sustainable brands, with research from Nielson suggesting 66% of consumers would spend more on sustainable products or services. Use clear and consistent messaging to show consumers what you stand for.

“Sustainability isn’t a nice-to-have for businesses. In fact, it has become an imperative,” says Keith Weed from Unilever. To succeed globally, brands need to show consumers they can be trusted with the future of the planet, in addition to caring about their communities and their bottom line.

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