For any business there are benefits to being sustainable and there are risks associated with being unsustainable. Therefore it is worth investing in the future of your business.
The best investment a business can make in sustainability is to learn as much as possible about how their business impacts on the wider economic, social and environmental systems.

Business Sustainability

From a sustainability viewpoint there is good business and there is bad business. The reason for this is that the sustainability of a business firstly depends on what it does (i.e what it produces and sells) and secondly, how it does it. An oil producing business, as an extreme example, can never be sustainable no matter how well it goes about it. However, the majority of businesses create products and services that can be sustainable, but aren’t, because of the way the products and services are created. A farm, for example, can be an unsustainable large-scale industrial type or it can be a sustainable smaller-scale organic type. Most businesses can, and should, reduce the ecological footprint of their products and services as much as possible.

By introducing sustainable practices to reduce ecological footprint, competitive advantages can come from many areas including:

  • Reduced operating costs
  • Better systems for measurement and management
  • Improved identification and management of risk
  • Enhanced reputation and positive customer response
  • Increased ability to attract and retain employees
  • Reduced downtime and sick leave
  • Better learning and innovation
  • Better frameworks for existing social and environmental initiatives
  • Reduced Government intervention

The Triple Bottom Line

Business sustainability is ‘captured’ in the concept known as the Triple Bottom Line where – in addition to economic profitability – a business is also accountable for its social and environmental bottom lines. The basic premise is that a businesses’ costs are not just financial. In this scenario profits (and losses) should not be counted in just dollars. The true costs for any business include natural costs (pollution and environmental damage; loss of biodiversity and natural habitats; climate change; etc) and social costs (unemployment; decline of the regions; lifestyle diseases and mental health) as well as financial capital. Read more about the Triple Bottom Line of business »

How to invest in the future

By developing a business sustainability strategy you are investing in the future. This is the basic process:

  1. Conduct a sustainability assessment of your business
  2. Gauge risks and opportunities
  3. Research – best practice, case studies
  4. Design/evaluate options for solutions – systems, policies, technologies
  5. Set goals and targets
  6. Develop financial mechanisms to support programmes/initiatives
  7. Engage the organisation
  8. Measure and evaluate against goals and refine the strategy for improvement
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