Monday January 28, 2013
By Sally Brand - Senior Business Development Manager
Sustainability has become a hot topic in recent years, affecting all businesses regardless of size or industry. Sustainability isn’t just about being a ‘green’ business but one which meets the triple bottom line also known as; people, planet and profit.
When I spied Richard Branson’s latest book, Screw Business as Usual in my local book shop, I was intrigued to see an entire book dedicated to this topic. It looks at how organisations can drive change and bring meaning to people’s lives by doing the right thing, whilst enhancing the bottom line. Using real life examples of businesses who are pioneering this approach, Branson takes us on a journey to understand what can be done and how this can be achieved. For example, M&S, one of the UK’s leading retailers, has set itself a goal to become the world’s most sustainable retailer by 2015. In 2007, M&S launched a plan to deliver this, outlining 180 ambitious commitments which focused on every aspect of their business from reducing carbon emissions to the health and wellbeing of their employees. Not only did this provide an opportunity for them to give back to the planet and people but a chance to improve profitability; which it has done, by many millions of pounds.
Branson illustrates that it’s not just the ‘big boys’ that can make an impact when it comes to sustainability. Entrepreneurial and ethical surf brand Finistrerre started with a simple aim in 2002 – to sell well designed surf garments, made from local sources that help the people and planet and, to quote founder, Tom Kay, challenge the ”villains of the day…[those with] little integrity and no transparency”. They have gone from strength to strength picking up numerous awards along the way including The Observer Ethical Business Award.
Looking at it from another perspective, being sustainable not only benefits people in the context of suppliers and clients but in many instances the employees themselves. For example, through learnpurple I became involved in The Brokerage Citylink mentoring project to help get the long term unemployed back in to jobs. Not only did this project enable me to give something back to the community but it developed my personal people and communication skills as well as emotional intelligence and so it really was a win-win-win: for the charity, learnpurple and me.
In today’s market, savvy employers are realising that individuals, particularly in Generation Y, do not want to work for an organisation merely to make money. As James Kydd, former Marketing Director of Virgin Media UK puts it; “there’s a massive generational shift occurring that will blur the distinction between doing good and doing business’”
Our recent thought leadership piece in partnership with Changeboard also highlighted that employees, and customers, want to be associated with companies offering the highest levels of integrity, business morals and ethics.
Sustainability is not just a buzz word - it is a very real issue for our planet and people,as such all organisations should be thinking about the changes they can make to create value and hopefully as a result, profit. If this isn’t something that is being discussed in your organisation at board level you’re missing a trick.
The world is changing – don’t be left behind. As Branson says; “Do good, have fun and the money will come”.
Has your business put into place any inspiring sustainability initiatives? If so, what impact has this had?