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5 tips on achieving business sustainability

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5 tips on achieving business sustainability

Developing a sustainable business will ensure your company has the capacity to endure, minimise your environmental impacts and help you take advantage of net zero and climate change opportunities. Ian Carstairs leads our team of sustainability specialists. He shares 5 tips that will help you build resilience, reduce costs and protect your business from risks.

Climate change poses a genuine risk. But there are also opportunities. Customers will look for new products and services that are less carbon intensive. There will also be a market for goods and services that can help others lessen and adapt to the risks.

Ian Carstairs, Sustainability Team Leader, Scottish Enterprise

Ian Carstairs, Scottish Enterprise

What is business sustainability?

Sustainability means 'the capacity to endure'. Developing sustainable business practises will minimise the environmental impacts of your business and help you build business resilience. 

Sustainable practises will also help you by reducing costs, protecting your business from risks and ensuring you can respond to challenges and take advantage of future opportunities. 

The disruption caused by COVID-19 has forced many companies across Scotland to re-evaluate their traditional ways of working in order to adapt to a fast-changing business landscape. In recent months we’ve seen examples of companies who are finding ways to ‘build back better’ in the post- COVID-19 world - by developing new products, exploring new markets, and implementing innovative ways of working.

We’re also seeing a growing number of companies of all sizes across all sectors who are using the disruption to their established business models as an opportunity to do things better, more efficiently and with a reduced impact on the environment. 

This is where our sustainability specialists can help. We have a wide range of tools and resources to get the right support to your business.

5 tips on achieving business sustainability

1. People make the difference

Driving environmental improvement is not just the role of your Health, safety, quality and environment (HSQE) Manager or your workplace green team, it needs commitment from all levels of your organisation. Management commitment to reducing carbon emission is vital, but it’s also important to create a culture where staff are empowered to drive continual improvement.

Developing a net zero strategy is not only an ideal way for a company to state it’s ambition, objectives, targets and proposed actions, it’s also an opportunity to make sure that the whole organisation is invested in your journey towards sustainability. It’s important to seek out ideas from within your own business, and to look for ways to incorporate these ideas into your sustainability strategy.

Once your strategy is in place, communicating clear goals and objectives will ensure that employees across the business have a greater understanding of the businesses commitment and what is expected of them individually, or as teams, to help achieve these.

2. It’s about more than just CO2 savings

For many businesses looking to become more sustainable, the main factors driving their decision-making process will be environmental. However, it’s also important to remember that managing the use of your resources isn’t just about reducing your emissions - there can be wider business benefits too.

Reduced costs for energy, waste and water, improved competitiveness, more resilience to price fluctuations and future proofing your operations against upcoming environmental legislation, can all be achieved through monitoring and managing your resource use and investing in the right technologies.

The first step is to make sure you’ve carried out a baseline energy review or carbon footprint of your operations. This will help you understand the scale of your emissions and where to prioritise your improvements. 

You may also want to explore the carbon impact of your product or service throughout its lifecycle. For example, could you design for re-manufacture, consider using recycled or recyclable materials, reduce packaging, make your product easier to transport or deliver you service differently to reduce emissions?

3. Work with suppliers and customers for mutual benefit

If you don’t understand what your customers expect in terms of your environmental performance, you run the risk of them finding someone else who does. It’s important to engage with your customers to let them know your values and work with them to understand any issues or opportunities you could work on together.

Reach out to them, examine their websites, speak to your sales team and have a look at the customer questionnaires they are seeing. You may find there are areas you could address together for your mutual benefit.

More and more customers for example are procuring products and services based on their sustainability credentials. You should therefore consider adopting a supplier framework that favours the goods and services that lower environmental impact.

Work with your supply chain to help them understand your requirements and look for ways to influence them to improve.

4. Manage the risks of climate change – and grab the opportunities

Climate change is real. It’s happening now and it poses a genuine risk to business continuity for companies across Scotland.

Whether it’s the direct risk of operational impact due to extreme weather or supply shortages due to resource scarcity, or whether it’s a change in demand for their products and services due to society’s response to climate change, this agenda has the potential to impact on business premises, processes, logistics, markets and the way in which they are financed. Consider developing a climate change action plan or including climate impact in an existing business continuity plan.

But where there's risk there are also opportunities. Customers will look for new product and services that are less carbon intensive. There will also be a market for goods and services that can help others mitigate and adapt to the risks posed by climate change.

5. Share success

Climate change and sustainable business practices might not be new concepts, but they've never been more prominent in the public eye than now. There are already many Scottish businesses who put environmental sustainability at the heart of what they do and we need them to share their success and the challenges they faced.

Sustainability makes business sense so don’t be afraid to shout about it. There are many ways that being more sustainable can help a business - from cost reduction, improved brand value, enhanced reputation, development of innovative products, attraction and retention of staff and better relationships with communities and stake holders.

If your business is at the beginning of its journey towards sustainability, it’s important to seek out ideas and inspiration from those companies that have already made considerable progress on the path to a low carbon future.

Next steps

Our sustainability specialists work with companies of all sizes across all sectors to help them do things better, more efficiently and with a reduced impact on the environment. The support we offer is very diverse and includes help with improving your:

  • Business premises
  • Products and services
  • Processes and operations
  • Marketing, PR and people

Ready to get started?

Whether you’re just starting your journey to environmental sustainability, or you already have a project in mind, our experts can help.