There are two ‘C’ words on everybody’s minds right now – namely, Christmas and climate change. While the first will be over quicker than we'd like, climate concerns are here to stay for the foreseeable future.
As we enter the new year, it's important for C-suite individuals to consider their role in addressing climate change. With consumers prioritising businesses that operate with environmental and social responsibility in mind, it's more important than ever for companies to focus on sustainability within their strategies.
A 2021 study by EY confirms this, with 80% of CEOs believing that companies will take more responsibility for socio-environmental impact in the next five years.
In this article, we'll explore 8 New Year's resolutions that business leaders can carry out to create a meaningful difference in the fight against climate change and contribute to a more sustainable future.
1. Undergo the B Corp process
Achieving a B Corp certification demonstrates that your business has high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. The process includes improving and streamlining aspects from employee benefits and charity involvement to developing sustainable supply chain practises and materials.
Once an organisation's social and environmental impact has been measured, those who meet the criteria and achieve an assessment score of 80 or above become certified B corporations and are seen as global leaders for an inclusive and equitable economy. Companies that currently hold a B Corp status include the likes of Evian, Patagonia, and Ben & Jerry’s.
Source: B Labs
2. Refresh products and services
Conducting sustainable innovation is fast becoming a game changer, with organisations placing more focus on creating new products that can be produced with fewer carbon emissions, less waste, and an emphasis on enhanced wellness. When we consider financial services, for example, we can see that consumers now demand more sustainable financial products, including:
- Cards made from recycled plastic (45%)
- Customer incentive schemes, loyalty programmes and saving accounts that reward customers for making sustainable financial decisions (42%)
- Access to green loans and mortgages (31%)
Considering adapting your product offering with a sustainable outlook in mind will not only introduce opportunities for cost saving and a reduced environmental impact but will retain and attract customers who actively seek these aspects within a business.
Source: The Fintech Times
3. Switch to digital billing and comms
In the large majority of industries, customers receive bills and other sensitive documents through the post, and according to the latest stats, this has contributed to nearly 8 billion documents being delivered in the UK each year. While post has historically been seen as the safest method of receiving letters that include personal information, it has now become slow, unreliable and, more importantly, has a significant negative impact on the environment.
One option to counteract this is to transfer a portion of your sensitive document output to digital recorded delivery, providing a quick and safe method of transmitting information while reducing our reliance on carbon-intensive processes such as print, pack and post. Our secure email solution, Mailock, is one such solution that can easily help you make the switch.
4. Embed sustainability into company culture
Achieving employee buy-in is important for maintaining a sustainable mindset from the inside out. However, many businesses fall short of cultivating true staff commitment. Currently, 35% of employees see a disconnect between their organisation's stated purpose and its day-to-day actions, leaving them disengaged.
A true business focus on sustainability must be effectively filtered down to employees through regular communication and strong company culture in order to retain staff and credibility with consumers. Ways this can be managed include:
- Implementing green initiatives that benefit employees, such as a cycle to work or electric car scheme, alongside public transport perks as part of hiring packages
- Encourage company-wide completion of schemes such as the big plastic count, using competitions or prizes to sweeten the deal
- Identify employees who are interested in sustainability and empower them to lead initiatives and educate their colleagues
- Involve staff in sustainability decision-making and allow them to suggest and implement ideas for improving sustainability in the organisation
- Put in place workshops or training programs to educate employees in a fun and constructive way
5. Analyse partners and suppliers for sustainability
While you may have streamlined your own business operations and processes, it is equally as important to consider the activities of your suppliers and partners to achieve authentic and long-lasting change.
Start by mapping your supply chain to identify the most significant environmental and social challenges currently being experienced and achieve a comprehensive understanding of what needs to be adjusted.
Develop a list of criteria to use when evaluating partners and suppliers, including measures of environmental performance, such as carbon emissions or waste reduction, as well as indicators of social responsibility, such as supplier diversity.
These indicators should place you in a solid position to analyse pre-existing relationships and identify new suppliers and potential businesses to collaborate with, comparing their performance to industry benchmarks or to your own sustainability targets.
6. Consider your executive structure
Organising your leadership team to align with sustainability is vital for establishing clear lines of communication and ensuring effective decision-making. Begin by analysing the structure, determining whether an existing executive role that is closely connected to sustainability can take on new responsibilities, or whether a new role, such as Chief Sustainability Officer, needs to be created.
Then, consider how the executive team can best support your organisation's ESG goals and priorities, engaging with them to ensure that sustainability is integrated directly into decision-making processes. This progress should then be filtered down to the broader team, ensuring sustainability becomes a firm aspect of company culture and driving long-term value for the business.
7. Invest in sustainable business practices
It’s not just customer-facing services that should be examined for sustainability, but your internal processes and use of products also. Organisations, especially large ones, contribute to a growing carbon footprint through activities such as powering the office and waste disposal. Some key ways to improve your business practices include:
- Use energy-efficient light bulbs, appliances, and equipment to reduce energy consumption
- Implement a recycling or composting scheme to reduce landfill waste
- Switch to sustainable products, such as eco-friendly toilet or printer paper
- Invest in green infrastructure or use solar power
8. Make sustainability a key part of strategy
2023 will see businesses working towards firmer ESG goals in order to set clear standards across industries, measure overall progress and align efforts with worldwide change. Organisations must identify the sustainability issues most relevant to them and undertake data-let decision-making to monitor performance and achieve accurate progress, implementing corrective actions as needed.
These goals will need to keep solid time frames in mind, ensuring your strategy incorporates short-term, incremental change while working towards larger targets. In doing so, companies that define and act with a sense of purpose that goes beyond profit are estimated to outperform the market by 5-7% per year.
There is no doubt that business leaders will play a central role in influencing and steering the integration of sustainability into corporate strategy. By taking action on sustainability now, your organisation can reduce its environmental impact, improve its bottom line, and help create a better world for future generations.