Buzzwords that circulate the corporate landscape are often invoked much more often than they are implemented or understood. Corporate sustainability has become a topic of prevalent discussion and interest in recent years. Though many organizations talk about corporate responsibility and sustainability, practices that actually accomplish them are not often embedded into an entity’s ethos and operations.
However, implementing corporate sustainability can create significant benefits, and is well worth incorporating into your business operations.
What is Corporate Sustainability?
Corporate sustainability refers to conducting business in intentional, conscientious ways that account for the ways an organization’s existence affects its stakeholders. Or, in other terms, corporate sustainability seeks to lessen a business’s harmful impacts on the world and increase its positive ones.
Corporate sustainability has a wide range of influences and can affect both internal and external stakeholders. The ripples of these actions can become quite widespread. Examples of internal stakeholders include the organization’s vendors, customers, partners, employees or team members, their families, and even their neighbours or acquaintances. These could also include the land, areas, neighborhoods, or buildings that entity owns or operates. Additionally, external stakeholders of an organization could include vendors’ clients, that organization’s geographical locations and surrounding areas, its local and national community and culture, its local and national regulators or governing bodies, the areas where it sources materials, competitors, markets, the world’s environment, and more. The eventual effects of corporate sustainability are nearly limitless.
Corporate sustainability usually takes place within three basic spheres. Environmental corporate sustainability is concerned with a business’s effects on its natural environment. This might include land usage and preservation, chemical use and disposal, pollution, travel, waste, ecological considerations and more. Social sustainability relates to interpersonal, sociological, community, and justice/equity concerns. Enacting it could involve employee wellbeing programs, ethical treatment of workers, advocating for equitable and just treatment of everyone involved in an entire supply chain, supporting humane causes and more. Economic corporate sustainability focuses on areas such as profitability, responsible cash flow and investment, ethical practice, meeting or exceeding regulatory requirements and more.
Examples of Corporate Sustainability in Business
A common example of employing environmental corporate sustainability principles can be found in supply chain development within manufacturing or retail companies. Sometimes referred to as the “triple bottom line,” many companies have employed a three-pronged approach to evaluating supply chain decisions that takes not only the financial but the social and environmental impact of each element within their supply chains into account.
One strategy for employing social corporate responsibility can be to encourage better leadership practice within your company. Negative or toxic leadership can create systemic problems within an organization. By prioritizing leadership skills and human-first approaches to management within every sphere of operation, the long-term success of any organization can be sustained and improved over time. This could be enacted by requiring leadership training for all management positions within your business, offering leadership courses at a discounted rate to your workforce, creating leadership development programs for junior employees or corporately recognizing healthy leadership qualities and actions.
Economic corporate sustainability could be enacted by insisting on working with vendors that also engage in sustainable practices. This can require a bit more work. However, the results of this type of policy can be significantly impactful. Creating this type of commitment to sustainability can create a domino effect that holds not only the organization itself but all the businesses and entities it works with accountable to maintaining sustainable operations.
How Corporate Sustainability Can Benefit Your Business
Each of the examples above require effort and intentionality. They can sometimes be a little bit more expensive or necessitate a bit more legwork. However, the benefits of creating corporate sustainability initiatives can be significant and long-lasting. Here are some of the ways corporate sustainability can help your business:
It is attractive to your consumers and customers. Countless surveys and studies show that today’s markets value sustainability and look for sustainable practices and commitment in the businesses they work with or buy from.
It increases your employee retention and satisfaction. Employees care about sustainability as well. They are often positively motivated by their organization making a commitment to sustainable practice. And when a company values its employees and invests in their wellbeing, employees are much more likely to remain committed and loyal to the organization.
It can reduce cost or overhead. For instance, many eco-friendly operational choices or investments can cost more upfront, but will save your organization resources in the long run.
And finally, developing corporate sustainability practices can benefit the economy, the planet and people both inside and outside of your company.