Back in September, Matt Harris attended a waste awareness course at Bywaters, who provide recycling and resource management services. One of Matt’s fellow attendees that day was Yousuf Jamil, an Environmental Assessor and UK-based environmentalist. Over the last few weeks, Yousuf kindly agreed to prepare a guest post for The Organised Cleaner regarding sustainability and corporations. Given that Matt only recently had his ‘Sustainability Driven Service’ article published in November’s edition of Tomorrow’s Sustainable Cleaning, I thought this would be a great follow-up post so enjoy!
“Sustainability may still be in its infancy in absolute terms, but the move towards building ethically sound businesses has steadily gained momentum to last many years. Protecting the brand values, producing environmentally responsible products, carbon neutrality and social responsibilities are the new challenges for board members. Many of these values have are embedded within the DNA of many new business organisations. In recent research carried out by edie.net (Sustainable Business magazine) and Temple Group in the UK found that almost seven in 10 businesses (69%) consider sustainability to be a priority business driver for success in 2012, 40% of those see it as a high priority, i.e. at the core of their business strategy.
The rapid increase of sustainability into corporate culture obviously tells us something. First of all, corporation’s survival is at stake if they do not embed these above mentioned values within their overall mission and vision. Secondly, it is very logical to do so. The logic is to protect the triple bottom line (e.g. economic, social and environmental aspects) where all businesses are facing new environmental challenges, trying to achieve things that can make a difference to our society and planet, as well a to the business’ environmental performance and its productivity, efficiency and profits.
One of the biggest changes that has happened over the past two decades within the larger manufactures, is a holistic approach in thinking and planning all the way from digging the raw-materials from the earth to manufacture the products, distribution, selling and disposing the waste. Every step of the process touches the very core of three pillars of sustainability – the triple bottom line. Similar changes have happened also within the service sector organisations. They are very keenly following their economic, social and environmental performances of doing their business. They are also part of overall sustainability package.
The strategies to achieving a sustainable business outcome is to first secure brand integrity, transparency and authenticity. It is easier & cost-effective for those businesses that have already received considerable attention for many years as an ethical business, and have environmental sound practices & social obligations within their overall corporate strategy. I’m not suggesting that the new sustainability practitioners will have a hard time – not quiet, they will immediately be picked up by the customers, then the business organisation can further strengthen their brand reputation by engaging more on social and environmental obligations and the effect could be even stronger.
Businesses need to drive the green tech innovation (sustainability through green innovation), which would touch the fundamentals of sustainable business practices and have the aim of reducing waste, require less water and energy, minimise greenhouse gas emissions and use more recycled and alternative materials to manufacture the same products. Also, it’s important to encourage the entire supply chain as well as their customers to drive the green technological innovation to achieve similar benefits. By doing this, it is possible to bring everyone on-board within the sustainability obligations.
Sustainability doesn’t mean that it is all about cutting down CO2 emissions. It is in fact a tiny part of the whole sustainability dynamism. As our society is facing increasingly negative impacts of global warming from the green house effects, minimising CO2 emissions has now become a norm. Sustainability dynamism is obviously much bigger than this. It’s not only saving water, energy, wise and careful use of resources or eating organic foods, but also about social policies related to employees and their communities, which are equally important as driving the green technological innovation or any other aspects of business growth. Social policies such as equal opportunity and diversity, appropriate laws against discrimination, action against forced labour, health & safety, work-life balance, pension schemes, freedom of association and collective bargaining, possibilities of internal promotion for the employees are also very important. Likewise, policies related to communities such as human rights, job opportunity, infrastructure development, environmental protection and biodiversity conservation etc. are immensely important in achieving sustainability goals. They are two sides of the same coin and part and parcel of ‘the triple bottom line’.
Larger business organisations are perhaps one of the biggest sectors in our society, employing millions of people and many cases operating almost every country in the world. Near sustainability is possible if every business organisation and their employees do their part towards shaping a better tomorrow. Successful businesses will be those who recognise sustainability issues and put into practice sustainable environmental management plans and consider the competitive advantage that greening their products & services and having clean technology in place can help bring them closer to a sustainable future.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Yousuf Jamil is a UK-based environmentalist. He has extensive experience in working with business and environment sectors for many years. Climate change and sustainability issues are one of the main areas of his research interest.