Key ways to build a sustainable business
Right now, “sustainability” is a business buzzword. Many organizations recognize the importance of building a sustainable business model though, as with all things, it can have very different meanings to different people.
Some view sustainability through a product lens on manufactured consumer goods, while others view it as a process of reducing energy consumption in product production. Either way, we are entering a period where good business also means doing good for the environment. This business practice must permeate the organization and infuse its ethos throughout the value chain.
Consumers do not often read every product label nor consider the impact a purchase might have on the environment. Take the fashion industry, for example, as “fast fashion” has grown exponentially over the past few decades. Every year, consumers purchase almost $2 trillion worth of textiles, shoes, and related materials. Unfortunately, this also comes with the destruction of unsold products that can total billions of dollars. Thankfully, after seeing the significant amount of waste and consumer response, the value of sustainability is slowly finding its place within the industry.
This issue can be found across all sectors and provides context for the collective need for sustainable practices across all businesses. Here are a few key ways to build a sustainable business model:
Goal setting should permeate thinking throughout an entire organization. From sales and marketing teams to accounting and project management, each department can begin to think of sustainability goals that foster an environmentally friendly mindset. Simple goals might include the use of recycling bins throughout the office or creating an educational element to onboarding procedures that incorporate sustainability practices.
Measure key indicators
Gamification brings a spirit of competition to reaching goals. For example, the Salt Lake Chamber partners with UCAIR and TravelWise Utah each year to host the Clear the Air Challenge. This month-long challenge aims to improve air quality and encourages Utahns to use alternative modes of transportation such as public transit, trip chain, telework, biking, or walking. Through this initiative, participants can see their direct impact—such as trips, emissions, and money saved—by logging trips in the system. Ultimately, the goal is cleaner air, but the hope is that it will also change transportation habits.
Join a community campaign
Coming together around a community campaign like the Clear the Air Challenge is an easy way to get your organization involved and drive momentum around sustainability, but it’s not the only option. Look to the Utah Climate Action Network, which provides opportunities and resources for creating a sustainable business.
Create a personal buy-in
One way an organization can go above and beyond is to create a “Green Team.” This team can examine processes and look for opportunities to strengthen commitments toward sustainable business practices. And when it comes to incorporating them, the most important thing is just to start—it will become easier over time. Any change we wish to see must begin with oneself, but when organizations value sustainability as a best practice, it will motivate others to follow.