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Sustainability in business is not a side project


With increasing pressure from external regulatory bodies and savvy consumers looking to make smarter and more responsible purchasing decisions, it is more important now than ever to operate sustainably.

But it isn’t a matter of simply planting trees or installing energy-saving light bulbs. It is imperative that companies take responsibility for their operations and, ultimately, control of supply chain activities.

To achieve the desired status, the organisation must have a plan. Without a clear vision it can become a costly and ineffective exercise.

Aside from imbuing day-to-day operations with responsible practice, every business should analyse each individual project for opportunities to incorporate sustainability, be it through effective design and using less materials and resources to produce finished goods, or by using efficient manufacturing processes and suppliers.

Here are our top tips for achieving effective and ‘sustainable’ sustainability:

Form a ‘Sustainability Committee’

Just as Occupational Health and Safety committees have become the norm, so too should the ‘Sustainability Committee’. Enlist those individuals that are passionate about the cause to drive the initiative.

Research, educate and empower

Get employees to spend an hour each fortnight researching the topics and issues related to your industry or profession. Empower and inspire the team using examples of best practice, and encourage them to share this with others.

Consult the experts

Environmental consultants can assist companies in delivering profit and sustained growth through enhanced environmental and social performance. Consulting the experts at the start of the project will help the organisation focus on the areas of operations where the most impact can be made.

Create a clear vision

Creating an environmental charter that defines the scope, commitments and approach to implementation will guide the organisation towards sustainable practices. Having a clear vision will ensure you remain on track to achieve goals in a timely and efficient manner.

Measure, reduce, measure again and capture

Measuring your carbon footprint allows you to see the impact of energy, water and office waste initiatives. If you are dedicated to complete carbon neutrality, carbon credits derived from sources such as renewable energy projects or reforestation can be purchased to offset any emissions that are unavoidable.

Design for a sustainable future

Having a workplace and practices that are focused on sustainability creates vast efficiencies and long term cost reductions in achieving your long-term goals.

Commit to making sustainability a key part of good design: reduce materials and packaging; think about the products disposal at end of life and construct a “black ban” list of materials and processes that you commit to never using in your workplace or factories. This will ultimately form the parameters for your supply chain activities.

Enlist those around you

Establish additional ‘sustainability’ criteria that your partner businesses and suppliers are expected to comply with to achieve ‘preferred’ status. If you find that your partners are less knowledgeable and sophisticated in this area, educate them and be very specific when requesting materials and manufacturing processes.

Offer clients carbon-neutral products

Credible providers and certification help clients solidify their position in a market fraught with ‘green washing’ and also serve as a powerful marketing tool.

Roll out

Create awareness campaigns to communicate your credentials, the actions you are taking and the benefits to the client and end consumers. Take them on the journey by updating them on the incremental progress you make along the way.

Finally, it is important that efforts to save the world are in line with the objectives of the organisation. Resources invested into making a difference need to have a positive impact on other areas of the organisation.

Just as the world needs to act sustainably for long-term prosperity and survival, an organisation must remain profitable to sustain its own operations.

Tess Power is Brand Manager and Sustainability Chair for Buzz Products, a creative product agency providing design-driven product solutions to companies across many industries.