Every business wants a business strategy that drives revenue and produces value. What many entrepreneurs miss is that they need a good reputation and image in the eyes of its employees and customers. Some companies pretend to practice sustainable business practices when dealing with the media which may be more costly than actually being sustainable. According to a McKinsey survey, only 30% of executives actively seek opportunities to invest in sustainability or embed it in their business strategy. Entrepreneurs often have a different vision of sustainability, and a clear understanding of its benefits is crucial to understand its true power.
Firstly, if company leaders don't believe in sustainability there is little chance that the rest of the company will. The leadership team must be the ones setting the example, rather than simply preaching about it but not doing it themselves. Sustainability initiatives include a number of areas including environmental, social and governance issues. They need to look at better product development, reputation building and ensuring that corporate strategy works well. Leaders also need to show that investments in sustainability will pay off in the long term and that they aren’t simply short-term PR fixes.
Richard Branson's Virgin Group is a strong example of a sustainable company. Branson challenged the company to make the Battleship building (Virgin HQ) sustainable to reduce the company’s carbon footprint.
The initiative was warmly welcomed and the company has become free of single-use plastic bottles, paper glasses and, to some extent, paper in general. Additionally, by using smart heating and lighting technology, the company has managed to reduce electricity consumption by 61%, the toilets are now fitted with taps that reduced water use by 75% and air dryer use saves 225,000 paper towels a year. Flexible working hours were also implemented so fewer people were in the office at any one time, further reducing their carbon footprint.
Creating a sustainable company with a purpose is also a useful recruitment tool and studies have shown that Millennials are more likely to work for a company with a purpose, rather than purely focussed on making money. It means that the more the company can genuinely work towards sustainability, the more people they will be able to attract to help with growth.
However, although sustainability is an important element to modern companies it is also imperative that they are building the core of their businesses for effective business practice, rather than damaging it for the sake of sustainability. If a company tries to change too much too soon, it will undoubtedly have an unwanted impact and sustainable business practices are likely to be ditched if a company is simply trying to stay afloat.