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Sustainable Business 101: How to go green with my business?

June 7, 2022

Corporate sustainability can be identified and located when it is clear that profit is no longer prioritized over environmental concerns. And when the business attempts to heal our planet against the impending climate crisis we are facing. For many organizations, being eco-friendly can refer to maintaining operations in a way that negates or compensates for the negative environmental impact their supply chain or processes might generate. Finding and using sources of renewable energy is integral to reaching our goal of a healthy planet. 

OVERVIEW

  • What is a sustainable business?
  • Three pillars of sustainable business?
  • Why sustainability is important for businesses?
  • What to avoid: greenwashing
  • How can businesses be sustainable? 
  • Some businesses that are sustainable

The wide impact and range of green initiatives bring diversity to applicable changes and strategies. Outside of GHGs, scope 1, 2, and 3 emission categories, and waste management, three pillars build the strongest foundation for a sustainable business model. These are the three Ps: People, Planet, Profit.

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What is a sustainable business? 

While we as a society have reached a point where all businesses should be sustainable, the term lends consumers, capitalists, and industries a lot of confusion. So what exactly does it mean for a business or brand to be ‘sustainable’? 

Sustainability in business can be identified and located when it is clear that profit is no longer prioritized over environmental concern. Also when a business attempts to heal our planet against the impending climate crisis we are facing. For many organizations, being sustainable can refer to maintaining operations in a way that negates or compensates for the negative environmental impact their supply chain or processes might generate. This could mean managing waste better, recycling water and other materials, using recyclable or biodegradable packaging, or ethically sourcing their production materials. But the most significant change businesses can and should make is switching to renewable energy sources and using recycled water, wind, and more to generate the energy they need. 

Three pillars of sustainable businesses

The wide impact and range of sustainability initiatives bring diversity to applicable changes and strategies. Outside of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs), scope 1, scope 2, and scope 3 emission categories, and waste management, three pillars build the strongest foundation for a business to be sustainable.

These are the three Ps:

  • People 
  • Planet 
  • Profit 

With one pillar being ‘People’, it indicates that being sustainable is challenging in isolation. Since our climate and the crisis we face right now are together, the changes we make to make our lives healthier must be in collaboration. More importantly, social responsibility is a part of being a sustainable organization. This includes the people dedicating their time and effort to a company’s mission as its employees or resources. 

With ‘Planet’ being a rather obvious segment of initiatives towards reducing a company’s or industry’s carbon footprint through better energy efficiency and recycling. The last P, ‘Profit’ shifts the focus back to entrepreneurial and monetary profit while prioritizing environmental consciousness. After all, a business remains a business only if it is financially healthy.

Why sustainability is important for organizations and needed

Apart from the obvious and mutual concern that all profitable businesses should have for the climate crisis impacting the planet, there are other benefits to being sustainable. 

Some benefits of focusing on sustainability can be: 

  • Retaining and attracting intelligent and talented employees looking for purposeful work.
  • Strengthening existing supply chains for reliability, resilience, and efficiency. 
  • A more cohesive and flexible business strategy to implement as the need arises. 
  • A loyal and resourceful customer base, because the clients and consumers who care about the environment typically have very useful feedback on how to reduce internal and external carbon footprints.
  • Securing investments and capital from investors who value similar ethical strategies, including diversity, water use and waste, GHG emissions, and more. 
Benefits of focussing on sustainability

Governments across the globe and international environmental organizations have collaborated to introduce local tax benefits and subsidies for businesses. These prove using renewable energy sources, a reduction in emissions, proper waste management, and more. Furthermore, consumers become increasingly more conscious of the products and brands they support. This enhances brand acceptance with clear support for clean energy in the fight against global warming, water pollution, animal cruelty, and a lot more, comes with its benefits.

What to avoid: Greenwashing

Consumers no longer easily buy into advertisements, and as responsible buyers, do their research, specifically if they wish to show their support for a cause they care about. This helps them quickly spot the brands that are faking their way through the wave of sustainability and being an environmentally conscious company. 

When brands attempt to display their positive impact in the fight against the climate crisis but over exaggerate their motivation, it is called ‘greenwashing’. Consumers can identify brands that fall in this category quickly, owing to the sheer possibility that these businesses only wake up on or near the days leading up to Earth day once a year and change their social media campaigns to tones of green. Greenwashing’s main aim is to convince potential consumers instead of routing their energies and strategy towards concrete positive impact. This is done through misinformation and misleading advertisement, that the brand is environmentally friendly.

Greenwashing is deceptive at best and harmful to a brand’s image in the long term. 

An example of this can be found on food products that claim to be vegan, when they have always been vegan, like vegetables, fruits, or bread. or, labeling a product that was made through machines that use hydroelectricity. If the company is throwing out that water after generating electricity from it, it is a waste. 

How to be sustainable 101 

There are many ways and processes that businesses can look into to alter, improve, or impact positively. Here are some ways to go green as a business:

  • Identify and use renewable energy sources
  • Direct investing in renewable energy
  • Understand emission management and metrics
  • Use ethically sourced material 
  • Waste management
  • Plastic-free or biodegradable packaging 
  • Efficient transport of resources, goods, and services
  • Offer remote work to non-essential employees
  • Introduce car-pooling benefits to workers
  • Find carbon offsetting solutions
  • Host discussions to build and enrich a sustainability culture
  • Compost waste 
  • Go paperless
  • Build reliable relations with local and neighborhood suppliers for a stronger supply chain
  • Formulate a realistic plan to plant trees for each milestone

Some businesses that are already sustainable and doing more

There are many great examples of large companies taking the lead and inspiring their industries. Here we give you some examples of green initiatives for businesses and sustainable business ideas:

  • Intel has been repeatedly marked the number one sustainable company for years, owing to its resourceful water management strategy and its incorporation of ethical and renewable sources of water, energy, and electricity. 
  • In 2019, Apple announced that they would be going plastic-free by 2030, and also stopped including extra plastic chargers and wires in their iPhone boxes. Though online complaints arose, those died down quickly owing to how many previous Apple users already had multiple chargers and had no need for an extra. 
  • Mastercard introduced a Green credit card called Aspiration Zero which not only was made of 100% recycled materials but offered users ways to offset their carbon footprint through ethical shopping.

Business sustainability can be confusing because people often misunderstand sustainability in business as a way to define purely business ideas, such as maintaining growth or steadily holding the competitor's advantage. Businesses first need to understand the imperative nature of becoming environmentally friendly and using renewable energy. They then will be able to direct their goals towards raising the bottom line of positive impact and doing their part in healing the planet. 

At Think RE, we help you not only reduce your carbon footprint, but also incorporate better control over your energy expenses. Whether you’re ready to reach beyond sustainability targets or are clueless about where to start, we will support you through each step of the way. We are proud to present you with market research, help you identify suitable carbon offsetting solutions depending on your region, and procure sources of renewable energy for your needs. 

Visit our energy platform, RE Wave, to understand how we help you become a strong green enterprise with emission management and renewable energy solutions.

The path to go green is not without obstacles. In our Knowledg Hub article "challenges for corporate buyers's sustainability strategy" we discuss four big challenges offtakers face when wanting to become carbon neutral.

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