Strategic sustainability: Why it matters to your business and how to make it happen

Zoe Hanks brings you five top tips for creating a sustainability strategy that is meaningful for your business.

Introducing an office recycling scheme can often lead to greater change in the attitudes and actions of your employees around sustainability.

In today’s competitive marketplace, a sustainability agenda is one of the strategic tools that businesses of all sizes can implement in order to survive and succeed. If you are looking at implementing a sustainability strategy in your business, the latest DÕShort book – ‘Strategic sustainability: why it matters to your business and how to make it happen’ – may just be for you.

The book, written by Alex McKay of M4C Sustainability, is a 90-minute guide to why you need to think about sustainability in your business and how to put a strategy in place. It clearly outlines;

  • the process of creating a sustainability strategy, including tips on how you can identify issues pertinent to your business

  • how you can ensure your employees are engaged in your journey;

  • how to manage the inevitable scepticism around your boardroom table.

Here are our five top tips to creating a sustainability strategy that is meaningful for your business:

1) Align your sustainability strategy with your overall business strategy and be honest. Sustainability can help you stand out for all the right reasons, but only if it’s in complete alignment with your overall business strategy and you are not just paying it lip service.

Make sure that your efforts in this area are not stand-alone and tie in with the general direction and objectives of your organisation. If you aren’t doing well in a particular area then be honest about it. Provided you are making efforts to improve then it will likely be greeted with positivity. Your customers want cost and quality, but they also want openness, honesty and transparency, so make sure you give it to them!

2) Start to take a look at the material issues of your business. Take a walk around or draw a flow diagram and look at everything with a fresh pair of eyes. What comes in and goes out of your business? What are the processes involved? What are the impacts on communities and the environment? This is a really hands on way of getting to grips with what matters to your business, enabling you to visualise the impacts they have on sustainability in a different way.

3) Talk to people whenever and wherever possible. You may find that the material issues that are of greatest concern to your stakeholders may not be the biggest issues for your business. This doesn’t mean your stakeholders are wrong and you can ignore them. Small things can make a huge difference, even if it is just in someone’s perception of your business, especially if your largest impacts and actions are hidden from view in your supply chain.

Small things can make a huge difference, even if it is just in someone’s perception of your business

4) Take people on a journey, starting with small steps. Small changes can make a big difference. For example, introducing an office recycling scheme can often lead to greater change in the attitudes and actions of your employees around sustainability.

5) Differentiate yourself. Creating a USP (unique selling point) will help you focus your strategy on your most important areas first. Focusing your energy in one place to begin with will increase your chances of implementing a successful strategy. Don’t take on everything all at once!

Ultimately, understanding the motivations behind why your business has decided to embark on their sustainability journey is key and will allow you to focus on why sustainability is of strategic importance. This will also help you realise which stakeholders you need to get involved.

There will inevitably be some sceptics amongst your stakeholders. You will need to work hard to convince them to put sustainability at the top of their list and give their time and commitment to make it happen. How you approach this will depend on your company culture and the individuals involved. The book outlines some suggestions on the approaches that you could take when dealing with them.

The important thing to remember is that doing something is better than doing nothing. In the long run your business, stakeholders and the environment will thank you for it.

To find out more about the book and to order your copy, click here.

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