How To Grow Your Business With Sustainable Resources In Mind
Sustainable Development, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental Footprint Reduction are all hot current topics for discussion. But what do these issues really mean for your business? Depending on your industry, the best way to address these issues will differ. Whether it’s chemical manufacturing, agribusiness, grape growing, winemaking or coffee farming, there is a common thread: respecting and addressing the social, environmental and economic needs of the communities in which you operate, while ensuring benefits for other stakeholders (employees, customers and investors). Operating a business with sustainability in mind is not just good for the planet, it’s good for the growth of any business, whether it is a large, global operation or a small family-owned farm. At SBI we are passionate about improving the world and believe that private enterprise can, and should, be a major and effective player in this. So what can you do to make your business more sustainable? It starts with one thing, commitment. Commitment to:
- Be engaged with the community in which you operate
- Go beyond government regulations in your efforts to protect the environment
- Adhere to the highest standards of product reliability and safety
- Respect the human rights of, and provide equity to, suppliers and workers through good governance, ethical operations, fair and humane treatment.
What Describes a Sustainable Organization?
- Mission driven,
- Aware of and responsive to societal needs and stakeholder interests,
- Responsible and ethical,
- Dedicated to continuous improvement and often excellence,
- Driven to meet or exceed customer expectations,
- Disciplined, focused and skillful.
Sustainability is often framed in the media as a campaign to “green” the world or “save the planet” with a serious focus first and foremost on the carbon footprint and reducing GHG emissions. However, this focus on environmental performance improvement must be coupled with consideration of social equity and both must be supported by rigorous economic analysis, making the business case for sustainability and social responsibility to all in the supply chain. For organizations committed to pursuing sustainability, achieving better environmental performance or more equitable dealings with stakeholders is not a task to be delegated to simply one firm or actor within the chain. It is an integral piece to an overall business strategy for the entire value chain, part of everyone’s job, from the producer to distributor and the retailer.
Through better business practices that balance responsibility with profitability, many companies are being called upon to contribute to the alleviation of poverty or to address other unique community needs, and more so for global organizations doing business in developing economies. But it is not just global firms that need to make these changes. Every business, from the family farm to the factory, has an environmental footprint affecting their costs, their community and their future. How you address your sustainability commitments will either enhance or undermine your:
- Brand equity
- Risk profile
- Access to capital
- License to operate
- Ability to attract and retain talent
Adherence to sustainability practices can also enhance product quality – two excellent examples are shade grown coffee and biodynamic wine.
Making globalization work for your company:
Companies once held accountable only for the direct, contractually specified or regulated consequences of their actions now find themselves responsible for alleviating hunger, disease and more: issues as disparate as environmental sustainability, community economic development and child labor in sub-Sahara Africa. Thus it is easy to see that our increasingly interconnected world demands strong corporate leadership to strengthen governance, harness economic potential, alleviate global poverty and improve human conditions. So what should be the role of business? As engines of growth and sustainable development, corporations have a responsibility to address poverty and underdevelopment, to help disadvantaged communities where they conduct their business, manufacture their products and employ workers? Here are some guidelines:
- Innovate, create decent jobs and develop affordable products and services, especially those that meet basic needs such as water, energy, nutrition, healthcare, housing and education while leveraging your core business expertise and realizing commercial success.
- Invest in improving society and addressing global challenges beyond traditional philanthropy. Too often philanthropy is used as a form of public relations: “writing the check” to promote a company’s image through high-profile sponsorships. To respond to competing pressure from investors, governments and activists, companies should approach their corporate giving strategically to improve the business climate and infrastructure where they operate.
- Leverage other resources as well, devoting not only money, but management capabilities and relationships, to solving development problems such as in-kind donation of employee expertise for training; also utilize “cause marketing”: engaging customers in both awareness of and funding for some of these development needs.
- Use your natural strengths to create products and markets that stimulate development in emerging economies where future business growth opportunities are the greatest. You can and should provide access to economic opportunity through jobs, property ownership and access to credit and access to new technologies and training.
Responsible conduct must increasingly become the guiding principle in for overall business strategy. For private enterprise, international development is increasingly regarded as the “quid pro quo” for globalization and market expansion. Companies that heed the call for alignment of their social and philanthropic missions with their core business strategies will succeed far into the future. Those that don’t won’t survive.
The future is now
We help companies reduce their environmental footprint and develop valuable relationships with communities and stakeholders, no matter where they are on their journey. Whether you are a recent entrant/adopter of CSR priorities or want to be a CSR leader, SBI can provide guidance and work closely with you to:
- Develop a viable corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy
- Engage with community leaders, activists and employees for the good of all
- Identify opportunities for corporate giving, strategic philanthropy and social investments
- Design communication tools ? including CSR and sustainability reports ? aligned with your business goals.
Contact us today for advice on how to achieve your sustainability goals.