“Treat the Earth well. It was not given to you by your parents. It was loaned to you by your children.” – Kenyan proverb
According to James Cook University Australia, sustainability can be defined as the ability to “maintain healthy environmental, social and economic systems in balance, indefinitely, on a global and local scale”.
Contrary to popular belief, sustainability is more than just environmentalism, and recognises the roles of social and economic dimensions in delivering long-term prosperity.
Sustainability is a growing priority to business leaders, with many companies actively integrating sustainability principles into their organisations.
There are several factors for this, including changing consumer expectations and a growing environmental awareness across the globe. As such, sustainable business activities have the power to engage consumers, enhance operations and deliver value to an organisation’s bottom line.
There are three key pillars driving sustainability that business leaders need to understand and implement:
Greater resource efficiency, waste management, water reduction and energy conservation have important, tangible cost benefits. For example, for every tonne of recycled aluminium (equivalent to just 50,000 cans), 14,000 kilowatts of electricity is saved.
Similarly, water conservation is a great sustainability initiative that has the potential to save costs. In a recent survey conducted by Ecolab in conjunction with Greenbiz, 59% of companies surveyed agreed that water scarcity is a growing business risk and 74% agreed that it is an increasing priority.
56% of these respondents were already using smart technology to monitor their water use and savings. The benefits of sustainability are twofold, do good for the environment and cut costs that are unnecessary and taxing on the Earth.
Sustainability is closely linked to social integrity and purpose. Simple, sustainable practices, such as the sharing economy, hold the key to creating an open and inclusive work culture with shared purpose.
Coupled with the offering of volunteering opportunities, this sense of purpose is credited with engaging and attracting talent, particularly millennials who increasingly want to work for companies that do good.
Reputation and retention
Goodwill is an incredibly valuable business asset. What’s more, it has become a staple in society as accountability and transparency rise in importance. Organisations are expected to demonstrate their social purpose to stakeholders.
This includes customers, who want more than affordability; they are increasingly seeking products and services that positively impact the society and the environment.
Strong leadership is the difference between playing in the bush league and the big league. It’s therefore up to business leaders to instil a sustainable workplace culture within their organisations from the top down.
With so much potential value to be gained, leaders must take active roles within their organisations to demonstrate the importance of sustainability in driving business success. They must make available the tools, technology, information and training to achieve results that engage and motivate their teams.