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Why all businesses should embrace sustainability

Why all businesses should embrace sustainability
Hiten Patel

By Hiten Patel

14 Oct 2020

Sustainability is so much more than a trend. The world is socially conscious. Consumers are judging businesses on their corporate social responsibility and on whether their values and actions are aligned.

It is not enough for businesses to simply say they stand for a cause, they must have honourable intentions and a motivated agenda behind it too.

Why all businesses should embrace sustainability

Embracing sustainability brings many benefits: a better brand image, improved employee and client retention and reduced overheads, to name but a few. All of which contribute to better business performance, long-term growth and greater returns for shareholders. With so many businesses now embracing ESG, those that don’t may be left behind.

On a practical level, in April 2022, it also became mandatory for many UK businesses with over 500 employees to begin including climate considerations in their annual reporting. Obligations for UK businesses to be transparent on their sustainability efforts is only going to increase.

How can businesses increase sustainability?

There are four distinct areas that businesses can and should focus on:

  • Human
  • Environmental
  • Social, and
  • Economic.

While these can seem like basic and simple ethics, incorporating them into a business model, like changes in how we behave towards the environment, is essential to make sure change does happen. While some businesses consider sustainability to cover only environmental issues, others make steps towards improving education, poverty, health, women’s rights and so much more. The spectrum is as broad as you make it. The important thing is you decide what your business stands for, such as a social issue relevant to your brand.

How to embrace sustainability in your organisation

While most businesses agree that sustainability is a worthwhile concept, many have yet to take the steps towards implementation.

It is also worth noting that according to new research from Getty Images, which surveyed 10,000 people globally, 81% see themselves as eco-friendly but just 50% say they only buy products from brands that try to be eco-friendly.

The survey also found that 84% of UK consumers say that being environmentally friendly is important to them, yet 68% cannot name an environmentally friendly brand.

This disconnect should not put businesses off, as it shows consumers are mindful of sustainability, giving businesses the opportunity to connect with consumers and build loyalty if they can clearly communicate what they stand for. Sustainability provides businesses with the key to remaining competitive. And its implementation in long-term business plans and strategies can only have a positive effect on customer loyalty and revenue. Other benefits include increased employee retention, improved environmental benefits and an improved brand image from customers, employees and investors.

Proactive sustainability over reactive sustainability

With major brands coming under fire for not embracing sustainability for materials which negatively impact the environment or poor working conditions for employees, there’s a race to be proactive rather than being forced to be reactive. Public outrage and boycotts for a lack of sustainability are exceedingly difficult to bounce back from, especially in the age of social media where news items can be spread in just a few hours.

A lack of sustainability can lead to your brand being ‘cancelled’, a label that no business can afford. Transparency when it comes to sustainability is therefore imperative. Campaigns are an effective way to showcase what your brand stands for, addressing any grey areas and providing audiences and customers with full disclosure to you as a business.

Simple switches for active sustainability

From switching to paper straws to eliminating plastic bags, multiple global franchises have paved the way in sustainability for other businesses to follow suit. McDonald’s, Nike, Google, Apple, Nestlé… all of these household names and many more have taken the time and effort to improve their sustainability. Amazon even has a dedicated hub to highlight its commitment to sustainability.

Example: Iceland’s collaboration with Greenpeace

Other ways brands are embracing sustainability is by partnering with organisations that align with their values. For example, Iceland has gone into partnership with Greenpeace to raise awareness of palm oil.

The campaign they created was a powerful display of how exactly we are impacting the environment with the over farming of palm oil. It shows a young orangutan, Rang-tan, now without a home and shows the devastating effects of deforestation as a result of over-farming their habitat. On release, the video generated over four million views, and as a result, spread awareness of the effects of farming palm oil and accumulated over 670,000 signatures on a Change.org petition to get the advert released on television. This collaboration was just one example of a brand embracing sustainability and using their platform to drive real change.

Our responsibility for the future

Essentially, brands must be able to meet the demands of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow. Serious environmental issues such as climate change and global warming are constantly on the rise, and as a society, these issues are becoming more essential for consumers. Brands that are being responsible and are communicating their sustainability message will be able to build long-term trust and loyalty with their stakeholders.

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