What are the Elements of an Environmental Sustainability Programme?
“Businesses can lead with their values and make money, too. You don’t have to simply be purely profit-driven. You can integrate social and environmental concerns into a business, be a caring business, be a generous business and still do very well financially.” – Jerry Greenfield
Understanding the Concept of an Environmental Sustainability Programme
To understand the essential parts of a Sustainability Programme, it would be helpful to start with two things. Firstly, clarification of what meant by the term Sustainability Programme and secondly, what the benefits are to the business or organisation – in other words, ‘Why bother?’
These two points form the foundation for developing a sound plan.
Clarifying the Concept of an Environmental Sustainability Programme
An Environmental Sustainability Programme is the plan which guides an organisation, to achieve goals which relate to the sustainability of its future, in terms of current and upcoming environmental challenges. The organisation may be a business, charity, governmental or other body.
These challenges will include for example, compliance with environmental legislation, consumer demand, resource scarcity, both energy and utility costs and security to name a few. Measurement of progress is required throughout.
What are the Benefits of a Sustainability Programme?
Just as a business needs a financial plan to understand the implications of spending decisions; it must also recognise the consequences of its activities on the rest of the world. Equally, changes now occurring across the globe will impact the ability of a business to respond.
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- By choosing to take a proactive route, a company can protects itself from energy and utility costs, set to continue rising. Additionally, the government is committed to a low carbon economy, yet struggling to meet its targets. So expect increasing pressure on the corporate realm to achieve the UK’s pledges.
- Abundance of resources is not guaranteed and future scarcity may also cause rising prices, affecting purchasing capability.
- Recruiting and retaining talented staff is becoming more competitive. Motivated employees want to work in places where there is a clear sense of values and purpose. Engaging these internal customers will lead to reduced staff turnover and recruitment costs.
- Similarly, two thirds of consumers are demanding products and services which include green credentials as part of the offering. Developing a genuine ecological outlook provides a multitude of marketing opportunities.
What the Sustainability Plan Should Include;
Commitment from the Senior Leadership Team
Recent surveys have sent out a strong message that employees would like direction from management, who they feel should lead by example.
Communications Plan – Internal and External
The plan should be about embedding a culture of sustainability throughout the organisation. The strategy includes verbal as well as written and digital communication.
By involving employees, this becomes part of everyday activities, rather than a bolt-on, maximising the opportunities and benefits. External communications are important for informing other stakeholders as well as for marketing purposes.
Three Pillars of Sustainability
Ecological matters do not stand alone within an organisation, as they interrelate with financial and social aspects. These components are known as the Three Pillars of Sustainability, sometimes called ‘People, Planet, Profit.’ If one of the pillars is weak, the whole plan will lack strength.
Put another way, environmental matters are often viewed as a cost to the business. This is fundamentally wrong. The view should be that it is an investment for the future. Some of the many benefits of these activities have already been covered in this article.
Complying with Regulation
As stated previously by Yorkshire Powerhouse, compliance is the starting point for a Sustainability Programme. Waste regulation is a key example of legislation which is largely overlooked by businesses. The ‘Right Waste Right Place’ campaign highlights the surprising number of SMEs which are currently breaking the law. In fact, 90% of non-compliant companies are SMEs.
Waste, Resources and Circular Loops
All businesses purchase resources, from office stationery such as paper to complex raw materials used in manufacturing. Whether your organisation provides a service or product, procurement should be sourced from sustainable suppliers.
Instead of disposing of waste, materials should be viewed as a resource for other organisations and sent on accordingly. The phrase ‘waste is a resource out of place’ forms the basis of this circular outlook. Some innovative thinking and research may be required here.
Travel Plan and Energy Policy; Carbon Footprint
Although this point groups two areas together, they often form the largest two contributors to total carbon footprint. Energy usage and transport each needs to be analysed with the aim of reducing environmental impact.
Bringing the Plan Together
What you have read includes many facets of a Sustainability Programme. However, this is not a framework for the plan, rather some pointers for organisations to determine their part within the global ecosystem. We all rely on this ecosystem and ignore it at our peril.
One Final Element
The commitment of the Senior Leadership Team is essential, but consider who will be responsible for bringing it together. Does the organisation have the skills and available time to facilitate this development? If not, where will you source the appropriate expertise?
Developing an environmental policy is proven to be commercially beneficial to a business – so seek out an expert who can help to support and guide you through the process.