- Sustainability is no longer just about reducing business costs.
- The habits of younger generations have forced businesses to rethink their approach to sustainability.
- Sustainability would not be so widely embraced if it didn’t offer a legitimate return on investment.
According to Auckland-based sustainable business advisor Carolyn Cox, sustainability is no longer just about reducing business costs. Sustainable initiatives are now being driven by the need for businesses to manage their reputation, reduce risk and remain relevant.
Cox, owner of Green Business Lab, says the habits of younger generations have forced businesses to rethink their approach to sustainability.
“Consumer patterns are moving toward sustainable products, especially in the Generation Y and Millennial populations,” Cox says. “They don’t want to feel bad about what they’re doing. If you aren’t thinking about sustainability, and your customers are, that’s a risk.”
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That risk goes beyond reputation management. Businesses with transparent sustainability plans can also gain a competitive advantage during a tendering process, particularly when bidding for work from larger organisations and government.
Not only can sustainable businesses improve their chances of winning contracts, they can often attract a wider talent pool. Younger consumers not only want to buy from sustainable businesses, they also want to work for businesses where they are finding solutions, not causing problems.
Young jobseekers are likely to feel a sense of pride from working for a sustainable business. Sustainability also helps employees connect their own personal values to the values of their employer.
How to get started on sustainability
1. Energy Use
Can the company use less energy? Can it be more energy efficient? Think about investing in LED lighting, Energy Star certified appliances, sensors to turn off lights when the office is empty, as well as heating and cooling systems.
2. Waste Management
Can your business recycle more of its waste? Can it reduce its waste? Look at how much waste goes out and what types of waste are involved. Businesses in New Zealand can consider using the RENEW waste exchange service, which helps connect busineses with people and companies who can use their waste products.
Can your carbon footprint be reduced? Can it be offset? Regardless of the size of your business, it’s important to think about what steps you can take to reduce the offset of your emissions.
On the right track
Once you are tracking towards your sustainable goals and can point to your successes, you will be able to leverage New Zealand’s reputation for clean, sustainable commerce.
Funding is available to help businesses improve on sustainability, including an EECA grant worth up to NZ$30,000 to help businesses pay for an energy assessment and make the recommended improvements. An additional NZ$10m to NZ$12m is made available each year for waste minimisation projects via the Ministry for the Environment’s Waste Minimisation Fund.
There is also a wide range of certification options available, including Enviro-Mark, carboNZero, CEMARS and Rata, as well as a raft of industry specific qualifications.
Taking it to the next level
New Zealand businesses are “a mixed bag” when it comes to sustainability performance says James Griffin, network general manager for the Sustainable Business Network.
A great example of a New Zealand business implementing world class sustainability initiatives is Tork, which supplies personal care and hygiene products. The company has invested in world leading product declarations for total ingredient transparency, including for its carbon footprint.
Tork is also using digital technology to allow its dispensers to monitor usage to improve inventory management. Tork believes this will help grow market share for the business and it is being trialled for the first time at Auckland University of Technology.
Another angle for sustainability is your company’s social and community impact. Could your employees all take a day off to volunteer? Could you sponsor a local event or charity? Is there something you could do to improve the natural beauty of your region?
“We have a collective responsibility to protect and enhance the environment we have,” says Griffin. “We have a crowdfunding platform for community groups to fund tree planting along waterways to help keep waterways clean. It’s about giving back to the community and social sustainability.”
When done right, sustainability can help boost profits. Griffin says sustainability would not be so widely embraced if it didn’t offer a legitimate return on investment.
Businesses are weighing up the costs against the benefits and throwing themselves wholeheartedly into sustainable investment. Make sure your business is not left behind.
This article was originally published by Westpac New Zealand REDNews.