Sustainability is no longer on the corporate periphery: it is firmly entrenched in the notion of good business practice, and companies large and small have been responding positively to incorporating sustainable development goals into their everyday practice.

That said, against the backdrop of a global pandemic, it is likely that actively maintaining environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) has become a fine balancing act with other pressing current affairs. So, with Sustainability Week well and truly upon us (this year, spanning 22-25 March) here are a few practical steps that your business can take to gear up for long-term positive change. 

Get Started With Sustainability Reporting 

Transparency and accountability are the driving forces behind a successful ESG programme.

Those businesses who have not yet made room for reporting might look to introduce new schemes to keep priorities and progress in check. Importantly, reporting on sustainability performance can also make a real difference when it comes to building and retaining trust among stakeholders. 

Sustainability reporting will look different depending on the size of your business, your primary market, and your history with environmental and societal initiatives. However, a good place to start would be to create a report, which highlights the key concerns that your business is looking to address and how you will go about meeting these goals, including a timescale, for accountability. This can be hosted on your website for full transparency and shared internally too.

The report should contain an overview of your business and the market environment in which you operate, and include factors such as what steps you will take to tackle these challenges (including short, medium and long-term targets), and how your progress will be measured – identifying KPIs and setting challenging but realistic targets are key here. 

Regularly updating this report and making it easily accessible will not only keep you on track to meet your objectives, but also build confidence in your brand for customers and employees alike.

Back to the Basics

Driving positive change doesn’t always mean making grand gestures and big promises. More often than not, it is smaller and more incremental steps that lead to the best results and long term sustainable change.

Businesses should go back to basics and consider where efficiencies can be made to reduce their operational footprint – whether this is by increasing their resource productivity, cutting resource use, or both. Energy and water consumption are two good places to start. For instance, is enough being done to reduce the amount of power used by your company? In pre-covid times, this may have meant encouraging employees to participate in energy-saving habits, such as fully turning off all equipment after use, rather than leaving technology on standby. This may still be the case for some employees, but also encouraging these same simple steps for remote workers can continue to make a real difference even outside of the office. It is a simple step, which can make a real difference if everyone makes the commitment.

Steps can be as small or as large as you feel your company is able to achieve. Here at GivingForce, we made the conscious decision to use only eco-friendly products to clean the office, and have also switched to a green electricity tariff. Small changes can lead to the formation of lifelong habits and changes in attitude, which may also encourage employees to make similar switches at home.

Larger businesses, especially those that manufacture products, might also want to consider how they can support the circular economy, whereby resources like plastic are prevented from becoming waste. Many companies, for instance, have already signed up to the New Plastics Global Commitment, in an effort to eliminate problematic plastics, innovate for more environmentally-friendly packaging, and work to reuse and recycle plastic wherever possible. 

As workplaces consider the future of remote working within their organisation, now might be the time to have a conversation about whether it is really necessary and beneficial for employees to travel to and from the office five times a week, as was largely the case pre-COVID. If productivity and employee satisfaction would benefit from greater in-office collaboration, then a good alternative would be to set up incentives for people to find greener modes of transport – why not set challenges for employees to walk or cycle into work, or your company could set up a bike loan scheme. Encouraging these greener methods of transport is great, not only for sustainability, but also general employee wellbeing.

All Aboard 

Spreading awareness and engaging stakeholders from all areas of your business is one of the best ways to drive sustainable transformation. A bottom-up approach, whereby employees can make suggestions and launch their own projects, will go a long way towards getting buy-in from the people that can make a real difference within your business, whilst also giving them the power and incentive to drive their own initiatives. 

Sustainability Week is an excellent springboard to bring stakeholders together, united with a passion to create change. Companies of all sizes can take advantage of this by hosting virtual events to get colleagues talking about the steps that can be taken to create a better future – with scope to implement events moving forward, perhaps monthly or quarterly, to keep sustainability at the forefront of business priorities. 

Furthermore, as many professionals continue to work from the remit of their own homes and videoconferencing remains a mainstay of the office environment, now is an opportune time to encourage conversations between colleagues from different areas of the business, or even physical locations, that might otherwise never have had the opportunity to collaborate on issues that are important to them. Why not set up a coffee break call where employees can drop in to talk about sustainability. This informal type of call may help employees to voice interesting ideas they may have for ESG moving forward.

Ultimately, thinking smaller and starting simpler can often be the most effective way of supporting sustainable change in the long-run. At GivingForce, we will be looking to identify changes we can make over the coming months.  We look forward to seeing all of the ways that businesses will be celebrating Sustainability Week and the changes to come over the course of the year!

Liza Kinnear

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