The first thing that usually comes up in a conversation about sustainability is climate change and CO2 emissions.
This is also what we have found to be true during our workshops, there is a lack of awareness about other sustainability issues. Climate change continues to be one of the biggest challenges we need to overcome to ensure any future at all and while it is an urgent matter, emissions are not the only problem that needs to be tackled.
Looking at your business through a sustainability lens should include an all-around look at all three areas:
You have the responsibility for all the impacts that are a result of your business. Let´s consider all three of the areas and what it means to be a responsible business.
The accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is only one of the many issues that are disrupting the natural environment that we all depend on.
We´re also facing water scarcity, loss of biodiversity, extreme weather condition, deforestation, ocean acidification and micro plastic pollution to name a few. Turning a blind eye to these issues is not an option anymore. We all depend on the resources that come from these systems, and we need to keep them running. Water is an important resource in our daily life, it is also a common input to many manufacturing processes.
Proper water management system can ensure that the water that comes out of the production process is of the same quality and is not polluted with chemicals when it is being released back to nature.
We need to make sure where are not cutting down forests at higher rates than they can be replenished and disrupting natural environments. Taking a closer look at how your business affects some of these issues and trying to develop a strategy to mitigate the negative impact can make a huge difference.
Considering the wider effects of the business on the society and local community to allow everyone to lead a fulfilling life.
The closest impact for your business is ensuring a thriving working environment for your employees which also has a direct impact on the success of your business.
A healthy working culture, training and skill development, decent wages or health and safety. This could also include product responsibility by asking the question of what affect does your product/service have on the society.
For example, a company producing and manufacturing tobacco products has a rather negative impact on the society.
Sustainability is about collaboration and working together to change the systems that are not efficient. While many of these issues are already regulated by law in most countries, if your supply chain stretches into developing countries, you can still have an impact.
Having a written code of conduct for your suppliers or demanding transparency to address possible concerns are some ways of tackling these.
For something to be sustainable it must be possible to maintain it at the same level for a prolonged period of time. Thus, economic sustainability is crucial to support the other goals. Economic growth and a stable economy allow for addressing all the other mentioned issues. It ensures people have stable jobs and allows for resources to be used where needed.
A business needs to be profitable to continues to operate and a successful business is also ensuring that its processes are not harmful to the environment or the society, it is able to achieve a mutual value creation.