There’s a number of ways companies and businesses can be more sustainable across a range of different sustainability indicators.
In the guide below, we list some of the key ways businesses may potentially do this.
Summary – How Companies & Businesses Can Be More Sustainable
Firstly, Why Would Companies & Business Want To Be More Sustainable?
We’ve outlined what sustainable business is, and also why it might be important in this guide.
Although, companies might also consider the list of potential pros and cons of sustainable business too.
How Can Companies & Business Be More Sustainable?
Ways that companies and businesses might become more sustainable across a range of different sustainability indicators might include, but aren’t limited to:
More efficient energy use
Use of cleaner energy sources (and renewable energy sources)
Use freshwater more sustainably and efficiently
Treating and/or re-using waste water
– Other Resources
Using renewable resources where possible
Generally managing and using natural resources and other resources more sustainably
– Pollution & Environmental Degradation
Minimizing different types of pollution, such as water pollution, air pollution, and general waste pollution
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions
Reducing total waste
Managing generated waste more effectively, or in a more sustainable way
– Social, & Human Health & Safety
Considering the safety or toxicity of products or business processes
Improving workplace health and safety, and providing a basic level of workplace conditions
Considering a third party social sustainability related certification
Donating to a social cause
– Sector, Industry & Company Specific Solutions
Different sectors, industries and individual companies may have different specific solutions they can implement to improve their sustainability
These solutions are aimed at factors unique to those sectors, industries, and individual companies
– *Economic Sustainability, & Business Interests
This guide does not consider economic goals (e.g. generating a profit), and business interest based goals (being price competitive, capturing a market share, protecting a brand, producing a product that is of a certain quality and meets certain performance benchmarks, and so on)
However, it’s worth noting that these goals are critical to the sustainability of businesses too.
Sustainability Specifically In The Office
We’ve put together a separate guide where we list potential sustainability tips specifically for a work office environment.
Onto the list of general sustainability practices for businesses …
1. More Efficient Energy Use
An example might include:
– More efficient electricity use in an office (or on-site)
This might be achieved by using more energy efficient lighting (with energy efficient bulbs for example), or, more energy efficient appliances
Technology like automated timers and sensors may also help save electricity
2. Use Of Cleaner Energy Sources
Examples might include:
– Using a clean energy supplier
Some energy suppliers may have a guarantee that a certain % of their energy comes from renewable or clean energy sources
– Install a solar setup on-site
A business may get a certain % of their electricity from the grid, but, installing a solar panel setup on-site may be one way get a certain % of electricity directly from a renewable energy source
Some locales may also offer credits or other benefits for businesses who do this, depending on the initiatives and/or programs in place at the time
3. Use Freshwater More Sustainably & Efficiently
Examples might include:
– Use water efficient devices and appliances
Such as taps/faucets and toilets, and other office appliances like dishwashers for example
– Increase water efficiency of different processes, and use water efficient systems
Particularly across the agricultural and industrial sectors, there’s various ways to use water more efficiently
One example might be using more precise and more efficient irrigation systems
Another example might be reducing or fixing leaks on industrial equipment (which can occur for various reasons to do with the fittings used, the plumbing work carried out, and so on)
– Consider rainwater harvesting
In some instances, businesses can set up a commercial or industrial rainwater collection and harvesting system
One of the potential benefits of this is that businesses can create a private water supply that may enable them to withdraw less water from the public supply system
In saying this though, businesses should be aware of the rainwater harvesting legislation and regulations in their area, and also what the conditions or the health and safety requirements are around both potable and non potable uses for that rainwater
4. Treating &/Or Re-using Wastewater
Some businesses may look into treating waste water, and/or re-using it.
If waste water can be treated before being discharged, and even re-used in some instances, it might help with the sustainable use of water, as well as decrease water pollution and other types of pollution.
There may be some challenges in treating/re-using waste water though, such as the potential cost.
5. Using Renewable Resources Where Possible
We’ve provided explanations and examples of renewable vs non renewable resources in a separate guide.
6. Generally Managing & Using Resources More Sustainably
We’ve written a separate guide about sustainable resource management, where we also list potential methods to manage/use resources more sustainably.
7. Minimizing Different Types Of Pollution
Examples might include:
– Reducing water pollution
Water pollution might happen when untreated waste or waste water is discharged into the environment (such as rivers, lakes and the ocean)
Disposing of waste properly, or treating waste water prior to discharging it may be a couple of ways to reduce water pollution
– Reducing air pollution
Air pollution can occur via the burning of fossil fuels, the incineration of waste, and other business processes
Using cleaner energy, cleaner transportation fuel, air pollutant capture devices/technology, and other practices may help reduce air pollution across various different business processes
– Reducing general waste pollution
There’s many different types of waste pollution that can come from business activity
The proper disposal of waste (so it’s adequately contained via the right waste management option), treating waste where required (especially hazardous waste), and capturing contaminants and pollutants from waste, are just a few of the ways to potentially reduce waste pollution
8. Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Two key ways businesses might reduce greenhouse gas emissions might be:
– Partially or completely switching to cleaner energy sources like renewables
– Partially or completely switching to cleaner transportation fuels
But, reducing greenhouse gases can also be industry specific.
Electricity generation, transport and agriculture for example may all have different solutions to reduce their respective carbon footprints.
As one example, some existing fossil fuel power plants may specifically use carbon capture devices and technology to capture and store carbon.
Other ways companies may help with the impact of greenhouse gas emissions might be by:
– Paying for carbon credits/carbon offsets
– Donating to initiatives that plant trees (which can act as a carbon sink and sequester carbon from the atmosphere)
9. Reducing Total Waste
Examples of ways companies may do this might involve:
– Going paperless, and using digital/electronic documentation where possible
– Auditing waste generation at different product lifecycle stages to identify opportunities to reduce waste
For example, businesses that produce a lot of packaging waste might identify where they can reduce the amount of packaging material they use, or, use reusable packaging materials over single use packaging material where possible
10. More Effective & Sustainable Waste Management
Beyond reducing waste, businesses may assess their entire waste strategy, and modify parts of it where applicable.
Some examples of ways they might do this might include:
– Auditing their waste current waste strategy, and business practices that involve waste generation and waste management
Businesses may audit overall waste metrics, such as the types of waste they generate, how much of each waste type they generate, how it’s sorted, and where it’s going (what waste streams waste is going to), and so on
They may for example identify more problematic waste types, or, where they can make improvements in their sorting and waste disposal to ensure waste is going to the right place
Making sure different types of waste are sorted properly and are going to the right stream can be important – for example, general waste, recyclable waste, organic waste, and hazardous waste might all be sorted separately, and then disposed of to the right waste bins to go to the right waste streams (landfill, recycling, incineration, etc)
There may even be an opportunity to commercialise some types of waste by-products (like for example where fly ash from power plants is used in cement and bricks/blocks).
– Consider how a waste hierarchy may help with waste generation and waste management
A rough waste hierarchy might involve:
Avoid waste where possible
Reduce waste where possible
Reuse materials and products where possible (some companies currently use a certain % of recycled content in some of their products, or, other companies may treat and re-use some waste water)
Recycle waste where possible (i.e. ensure recyclable waste is sent to the recycling waste stream)
Where waste generation is unavoidable, send waste to the right waste stream (general waste, recyclable, organic, hazardous, and so on)
– Consider refurbishing some used products
Refurbishing products may extend the lifespan of some products and materials so they don’t become waste as quickly
Nike might be an example of a company that currently offers a selection of pre-used refurbished products for a reduced price
– Consider product re-design to impact waste generation and waste management
Product redesign can also impact a company’s waste footprint in several ways
11. Considering The Safety Or Toxicity Of Products Or Business Processes
Some products may contain chemicals that have been identified as having some level of health risk to humans, with one example being some personal care products.
Substituting or changing these chemicals may be something some companies consider.
Some business processes at the production stage may also use chemicals with questionable levels of toxicity to them, which may find their way onto the finished product. As one example, some question the amount of pesticide residue that is found on some fruits and vegetables.
12. Improving Workplace Health & Safety, & Providing Basic Conditions In The Workplace
Construction is an example of an industry where there’s been a focus on improving workplace health and safety in various ways over the last few decades.
Risk assessment documentation, PPE, and other solutions have been implemented to help with this.
Additionally, some large and well known companies have been identified as having questionable workplace conditions in recent times.
Considering employee physical and mental health, ensuring employees are receiving and using adequate work breaks, and other considerations can make up some of the components of basic workplace conditions that employees should reasonably be entitled to.
13. Considering A Third Party Social Sustainability Related Certification
One example is Fairtrade certification, which includes some criteria for farmers and workers.
14. Donating To A Social Cause
Some companies donate a % of profits to a specific social cause.
As one example, some diamond companies may donate a % of profits to local mining communities (close to, or in the country of where some of their diamonds are mined or sourced).
15. Sector, Industry & Company Specific Solutions
Some of the solutions listed above are general solutions.
However, there may be sector, industry, and business specific solutions that can be implemented too.
A few examples of this might be:
– Decreasing deforestation for cattle farming, soy, palm and other similar agricultural operations
– Sourcing from sustainable food suppliers for restaurants, supermarkets and other ‘food’ related businesses
Other Sustainability Strategies For Businesses
The options listed in the guide are generalized, and are not definitive, nor a comprehensive list.
We’ve provided more information on potential strategies and practices for sustainable business in a separate guide.
1. Various ‘Better Meets Reality’ guides