Updated: Jul 27
A sustainability strategy is a business strategy that aims to have a positive impact on the environment and society. Some of the global issues that sustainable business strategies help to address include climate change, depletion of natural resources, pollution, human rights issues, income inequality, racial injustice, and gender inequality. It’s a strategy that focuses not only on profit but on people and planet too!
Why Your Business Needs One
We are currently in the midst of global climate change and ecological crises, and income, racial, and gender inequality are on the rise. In particular, we know we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by at least 45% by 2030 to prevent the worst impacts of climate change. Organizations that adopt sustainable practices to address these important issues frequently see a boost in business performance. Some of the key business advantages of being more sustainable include:
1. Protecting your brand and mitigating reputational risks
By being a good steward of the environment and treating your employees and suppliers right, you protect your company from scandals and damaging incidents, thus protecting your brand and mitigating reputational risks.
2. Reducing operational costs
By reducing energy, water, and waste, operational costs can be reduced, thus boosting the bottom line.
3. Attracting and retaining more customers
Customers increasingly want to buy from sustainable companies. According to an October 2020 BDC Consumers Practices Survey conducted during the first year of the pandemic:
approximately one third of consumers consider the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions (rises to 45% for those aged 18-34);
approximately one third want to buy from a socially responsible company;
80% are willing to pay a modest premium (<10%) to reduce their environmental impact; and
75% of consumers had a positive view of businesses that care about the environment
Furthermore, private and public sector organizations are increasingly prioritizing sustainable suppliers through their procurement practices as more organizations make net zero commitments.
4. Attracting and retaining more employees
Employees also want to work for sustainable companies that share their values. A 2015 study done by The Lewis Institute for Social Innovation at Babson College and IO Sustainability indicated that businesses with a commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability could see productivity increases of 13% and employee turnover reductions by up to 50%. According to a recent survey by ADP Canada (July 27, 2022), nearly a quarter of Canadians have changed jobs recently. Having a sustainable business strategy helps your company attract and retain employees, especially millennials.
5. Attracting investors and raising capital
Investors increasing want to support sustainable businesses as we transition to a low carbon economy. As stated in the 2022 federal budget, major Canadian banks will be mandated to disclose their 2024 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and climate risks, including those of their clients. In other words, banks will start to ask their clients to disclose both their GHG emissions and their climate risk profile to access financing. If you have developed your sustainability strategy and have established a GHG inventory, your company will be in better position to raise capital.
Development of a Sustainability Strategy
A sustainability strategy generally starts with a materiality assessment to determine which environmental and social topics matter most to your organization’s stakeholders (i.e., your customers, employees, investors etc.). Typically, the assessment involves the following steps:
Understanding where your organization currently stands with respect to sustainability (where are the gaps, challenges, and opportunities)
Identification of key stakeholders
Development and administration of a survey and/or interviews to capture and evaluate key sustainability issues of concern to stakeholders
Evaluation of results
Benchmarking /comparison to industry peers
Development of a sustainable strategy focused on a subset of priority issues that align with your business objectives
Your strategy should include targets and actions, a way to measure progress, timeframes to achieve targets, and on-going communication of progress to and engagement with your stakeholders
How Achieve Sustainability Can Help
Let Achieve Sustainability partner with your organization to understand your business objectives, what sustainability issues are of greatest interest, and formulate a sustainability strategy. Achieve Sustainability has experience designing and analyzing surveys, developing strategies and plans, and facilitating stakeholder workshops. Reach out today to see how we can help you achieve your sustainability goals.