In the guide below, we outline some of the key aspects of sustainability in business.
We discuss what sustainability in business is, how sustainable businesses might differ to traditional businesses, sustainable business practices, current examples of sustainable business in the real world, and more.
What Is Sustainability In Business? (A Definition)
Sustainable businesses may focus on four core pillars (which are based on the pillars of general sustainability):
– Being environmentally friendly (including reducing negative environmental impact & environmental degradation), and protecting ecosystems, wildlife and biodiversity
– Being socially responsible, and/or upholding certain human rights
– Generating and maintaining a profit, and economic success
As is the case for sustainability across all areas of society, sustainable businesses may have a goal to ‘Meet the needs of current generations, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs’
So, there may be consideration for both the short term and long term impact of businesses and their activity.
How Might Sustainable Business Differ To Traditional Business?
Traditionally, there may have been a focus in business to prioritize economic objectives (such as bottom line profit), and also business interests.
Sustainable business on the other hand may balance a wider range of priorities, such as economic objectives and business interests, but also environmental, resources based, and social objectives and interests too.
Potential Importance Of Sustainability In Business
Based on the above two sections, sustainability in business might be important because:
– It may be a more balanced approach that considers a wider range of factors and stakeholders in society beyond the business themselves (such as the public, the environment, etc.)
– It may take into consideration the long term future of society, as opposed to mainly prioritising short term goals
Examples Of Sustainability Indicators, & Sustainability Targets/Goals
There’s a range of sustainability indicators that businesses may develop sustainable targets around.
As just a few examples:
Examples Of Environmental Indicators, & Targets/Goals
Reduce water pollution
Reduce air pollution
Reduce general waste pollution
Reduce carbon emissions
– Environmental Degradation
Protect against various forms of environmental or biosphere degradation, such as deforestation, ocean degradation, ozone depletion, and so on
– Loss Of Biodiversity
Protect against loss of biodiversity
Examples Of Resource Indicators, & Targets/Goals
– Resource Depletion
Consume resources at a rate where demand/consumption is equal to or lesser than the rate of replenishment, to protect against resource depletion
Examples Of Social Indicators, & Targets/Goals
– Worker’s Rights
Ensure workers have basic rights and conditions in the workplace
– Health & Safety
Ensure workers and the general public are reasonably protected from health and safety risks that may arise as a result of business activity
– Social Opportunity
Provide employment, education and/or other opportunities to members of the community
– Specific Social Causes
Donate to a specific social cause or social group
Examples Of Economic Indicators, & Targets/Goals
Ensure business activity runs a profit and is economically sustainable
Sustainable Business Practices
What Are Sustainable Business Practices?
Sustainable business practices are individual business practices, or sets of practices (that make up a business process for example), that help achieve sustainable business targets and goals.
General vs Specific Practices
Some sustainable business practices are more generalized practices that many businesses might be able to implement.
Other sustainable business practices are specific to certain sectors, industries or businesses.
A List Of Sustainable Businesses Practices
Other Potential Sustainable Business Practices
Other than the practices listed in that guide, some other potential sustainable business practices might include:
What Is A Sustainable Business Model?
The definitions for a ‘sustainable business model’ can differ.
But, some of the common features of a sustainable business model, from a range of different definitions available online, might be a business model that:
– Delivers value to all stakeholders (the business, but also people, the environment, and so on) across the community
– Achieves sustainability goals across one or several sustainability indicators
Sustainable Business Strategies
What Are Sustainable Business Strategies?
Some reports may refer to sustainable business strategies and sustainable business practices as similar things.
Other reports may refer to sustainable business strategies as more of the broader or higher level plans and policies that businesses have in place, compared to sustainable business practices being the more specific actions or individual processes a business might carry out.
Potential Examples Of Sustainable Business Strategy
A sustainable business strategy might be based on one, or several of the following principles:
– Adopting a business model that considers sustainable practices across the entire product or service lifecycle, such as circular business models (as opposed to a more linear business model)
wikipedia.org discusses the concept of a circular business model in more detail in their report
– Setting up a business to be flexible and adaptable enough to change business practices as sustainable changes are identified, and as the market, regulations, or other factors change
More Information On Sustainable Business Strategies
wikipedia.org mentions corporate sustainability strategies, and states that ‘… widely practiced strategies include: Innovation [& Technology], Collaboration, Process Improvement … Sustainability Reporting [and also Greening The Supply Chain]’
They explain in more detail what each of these strategies involves in their report
Current Examples Of Sustainability In Business
At the time of publishing this post, we looked at some of the general sustainability goals or practices of some more well known global companies, as stated on their websites.
This is generalized and paraphrased information provided as examples of sustainability in business. The information shouldn’t be relied upon as a substitute for the official information provided by the individual companies, and it should be noted that this information can also change over time
Always do your own independent research, and confirm sustainability information and practices of individual companies yourself prior to purchasing goods and services.
– Aiming to use, or is using, more recycled materials, using more clean energy, and designing materials to last (i.e. increase their lifespan)
– Currently has ‘Product Environmental Reports’ which measure Apple’s progress through each device’s performance against different environmental priorities
– Have a ‘Move To Zero’ initiative, which is Nike’s journey towards zero carbon and zero waste
– Some of the waste is being reduced is by the donation of worn athletic shoes and apparel, which might then be recycled, and also by offering ‘Refurbished’ products, whereby some eligible returns and open-box footwear might be available to purchase at a lower price
– Currently, also offers some apparel and shoe products that contain a certain % of recycled content by weight (which they identify on their website)
– Tesla currently offers both transport products (such as EVs) and also energy products (such as their home battery system for energy storage) as some of their key industry offers
– Some of Tesla’s key sustainability actions might centre around more sustainable transport, reducing emissions, battery recycling, and energy storage (for more sustainable energy use)
– Tesla lithium-ion battery are claimed to be recoverable and recyclable, and Tesla describes this option and the process on their website
– Tesla also makes annual ‘Impact Report’ available
4. Hansen, Erik, Schaltegger, Stefan, 2016/01/01, 193–221, The Sustainability Balanced Scorecard: A Systematic Review of Architectures, 133, 10.1007/s10551-014-2340-3, Journal of Business Ethics, available at https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264938559_The_Sustainability_Balanced_Scorecard_A_Systematic_Review_of_Architectures