Sustainability is a topic that continues to be important for the growth and development of companies and businesses – and there are no signs of the importance fading any time soon. It’s an issue that affects businesses of all sizes, from small family businesses, 60% of whom place sustainability at the core of their daily operations, to nearly a third (30%) of Europe’s largest companies going further and committing to reach Net-Zero by 2050.
But despite 90% of business leaders believing that sustainability is important, only 60% have a sustainable strategy, and there is still a lot that needs to be done to create fully sustainable and future-proof organisations, regardless of the industry.
This drive and focus on green issues can be time consuming and can be costly, especially for industries with long-established processes and somewhat eco-unfriendly practices; but the future of all industry is heading towards a sustainable goal – which begs the question, if you’re not in a position to make genuine change, or you don’t believe that sustainable efforts are for you, then should your company be sustainable just for the sake of it?
In all honesty, the answer is a simple, “No.” but we’ll elaborate a bit.
Why You Need to Match Your Vision with Your Actions
We live in the age of the internet, where anything and everything is available to search, and people with even the most modest curiosity can find answers with relatively little effort.
When it comes to business, consumers have never been so empowered – they have the ability to make their voices known and reach not just a few dozen (such as the days of word-of-mouth) but potentially thousands or more.
A massive 84% of customers say that poor environmental practices will alienate them from a brand or company, and some of the top reasons why consumers are looking to purchase products that promise sustainability or support green businesses include:
- Improving the environment (30%)
- Reduce production waste (23%)
- Reduce carbon footprint (22%)
- Animal welfare (17%)
It really doesn’t take long to research a business or even individuals from that business, and find out everything there is to know, 81% of consumers do research online before buying – and if you’re operating a green program just for the sake of it, somewhere along the line, there is going to be a disconnect.
It might be in how workers talk about the company, it could be in the actions of the C-Suite executives, or even in how the production process is handled – but that disconnect will be there, and you can guarantee that people will find it; and when they do – it runs the risk of being weaponised and used against the company.
This could lead to huge problems, not limited to loss of sales, loss of customers, loss of trust, and loss of reputation; all things that are extremely expensive to rebuild or replace.
Lately the term ‘greenwashing’ has been gaining traction, and it basically means that companies are making themselves look more eco-friendly or sustainable than they actually are, and are faking or exaggerating their efforts to do better.
Understandably, this has led to a number of articles and media features on how corporate greenwashing is a problem, and brought more focus on the actions of companies. Basically, this additional focus and attention means that if you’re doing green for the sake of it – you’re going to get caught out, and you’re going to damage the reputation of your company as a best case scenario.
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Sustainability: Making a Difference, Even When it’s Difficult
It’s understandable that not every industry or company can immediately make sustainable changes of large-scale proportions – this is especially true for manufacturers or transportation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t steps you can take to make a difference.
Firstly, don’t just assume that people understand that you’re working with limitations – although, as we said, the ability to research is out there, it’s not often someone will actively look to find out why you can’t make sustainable changes (cancel culture and the mood of the day is to jump in first, and think about asking questions at some point) – take the time to explain why you can’t make some changes immediately, and make clear how you’re taking action to improve this.
Then do the little things – change your lightbulbs, invest in carbon offsets, go paperless – making small changes can help to establish a good foundation, and prove to consumers that despite it taking time to make the big difference, you are committed to taking the business into a greener future.