steps to building a sustainability business


As more businesses seek to become sustainably practicing businesses, they continue to face problematic obstacles that hinder their success; obstacles that include reporting and an ad hoc policy that many feel is inadequate. This year, senior Canadian business leaders of the Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) met for their annual meeting to discuss sustainability issues within businesses.

The goal of these discussions is to share accomplishments as well as challenges that these leaders face in making their businesses more eco-friendly, so that they can form a new plan of action for the future. Typically the focus of these meetings in the past has been on green products and employee engagement, but this year leaders looked beyond those two issues to a larger picture at hand and focused on long-term collaborations.

The top 10 sustainability initiatives according to Canada’s sustainability leaders include:

  • An integrated public policy
  • Engaging value chain members
  • Building a national dialogue
  • Creating sustainable organizational structures
  • Embedding sustainability within corporate culture
  • Providing clear and equitable directives regarding Aboriginal rights and entitlements
  • Supporting sustainable innovation
  • The incorporation of a social license to operate within the business strategy
  • Preparing society and organizations to adapt to climate change
  • Make sustainability reporting less burdensome

7 Steps to Sustainable Business Practices

Step 1 – Public Policy:  Businesses need to build an integrated and smart public policy on environmental issues addressing climate change. In order for this to be less complex for business leaders, governments need to provide concise direction on environmental issues for businesses such as national cap-and-trade systems for greenhouse gas emissions, carbon pricing, and feed-in-tariffs for new energy-generating sources. Business leaders would also like to see some clarity with environmental, economic, energy and social policies.

Step 2 – Engaging Value Chain Members:  Become a more sustainably practicing business by effectively collaborating with every member of your value chain by sharing sustainable business practices and solutions.

Step 3 – National Consumer Dialogue:  Engaging consumers on becoming more socially responsible with their consumption of products is extremely important due to the fact that it is believed that most consumers do not buy based on sustainability. Consumers need to take responsibility for the environment as well and therefore it is important to educate consumers about responsible consumption of products.

Step 4 – Employee Engagement:  In order to make your business a more sustainable business it is important to have every single employee and leader on board with your new sustainability policies and initiatives. You can integrate sustainability throughout your business with education. Educate your organization about the importance of sustainability.

Step 5 – Embedding Sustainability within Corporations for the Long-Term:  Sustainability is a long-term investment and the average tenure for a CEO within large corporations is six years. This presents a challenge for sustainability strategies, which is why it’s important to literally embed sustainability within corporations by bringing new CEO’s onboard to the importance of sustainability within the business and making it a requirement to be more socially responsible before they take over command.

Step 6 – Clear Aboriginal Rights and Entitlements Directives:   The engagement between a business and Aboriginal communities as well as resource development companies is crucial but difficult due to a differing of opinion. Build a long-term relationship with these groups based on clarity and mutual goals.

Step 7 – Support Sustainable Innovations:  Sustainability should be treated as a “new frontier” with a drive to sustainable innovation. This is a difficult task for businesses due to the fact that many business leaders view sustainability innovation as risky. To lessen the risk that sustainable innovation brings, business leaders should look for new eco-friendly trends within their industries and look to fill internal knowledge gaps by partnering with colleges and universities.

Long-Term Investing of Sustainability

It seems that companies with larger sustainability investments also have a higher return on assets, or ROA compared to companies who invest very little. In fact, companies who invest little actually have a worse financial performance compared to companies who do absolutely nothing to bring sustainability to the table in their business. So if you’re going to commit to sustainability, then you should go all the way.

randy bowden –  t | g+ | in | f


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