Business Planning Process Planning & Strategy

How to Authentically Assess If Your Business Is Truly Sustainable

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Everyone clearly knows that greenwashing is wrong; a lot of businesses generally don’t want to do it; they want to expand their growth while at the same time completely avoiding harming the environment. Sure, there are plenty of awful businesses and business practices out there that just simply don’t care, but that doesn’t have to be you. 

Nor should this be you in the first place. Just think for a moment: approximately 55% of consumers admitted that they would rather spend more money on products if it truly meant they would help the environment and, at the same time, would boycott all these companies that are damaging the environment. So, needless to say, there are a lot of consumers out there who truly care for the environment and understand the changes that are needed. 

Maybe you’re a business that entirely understands this, too, and you’re doing whatever you can. But here’s a bad scenario: What if you were greenwashing by accident? It sounds odd, but it’s technically possible to be unethical entirely by accident- even if it’s not your intention in the slightest. So, with that said, is it actually possible that you’re just not aware or information isn’t properly given out as it should be? 

So, what exactly could you do in a case like this? Well, here’s exactly what you need to know. You need to be eco-friendly, and your business needs to try to do what it can to help out the environment. You may need to do some more digging and ask some more questions, but in general, it’s worth it. So, if you want sustainable growth and you’re truly wanting to make sure everything is done right, then this article is for you. 

Start By Tracing the Roots of Your Products

Honestly, the main problem lies here. A lot of businesses just don’t know where the roots of their products are from. Every small component of your product adds up, and if one of them is far from ethical or eco-friendly, then it just means that your product, for the most part, isn’t sustainable as a whole. Yes, this is extremely harsh thinking; there is no doubt about it. 

So, just remember that sustainability starts at the source. So, it all needed to start by assessing how transparent and ethical your supply chain is. You absolutely need to know where your raw materials come from. So, be sure to go ahead and evaluate the environmental practices of your suppliers and ensure fair labor practices are maintained throughout the production process. A sustainable business is built on a foundation of responsible sourcing.

Are You Staying Up to Date?

Alright, so this one is fairly vague, but it does have a lot of different meanings. Are you staying up to date in the sense that business practices are changing? Do you have a solid understanding of ethical and eco practices that businesses you hire do? For instance, you hire a contractor to make your office/ building more energy-efficient. 

Well, instead of just assuming that energy- efficiency immediately equals eco-friendly, you’ll instead want to brush up on vocabulary and maybe where certain things are coming from. You could look into a glossary HVAC for some information or ask the contractor/ company where their supplies come up their practices, and so on straight up. Just keep up to do; while sure, it’s tiring having to ask questions and get answers, it’s needed. 

Look Beyond the Carbon Footprint

In a way, this goes with the paragraph above: one good thing doesn’t instantly equal sustainability. Yes, a lot of small acts can greatly help, but one small action or purchase just doesn’t instantly mean sustainability. So, go ahead and go beyond calculating your carbon footprint and conduct a comprehensive environmental impact assessment. 

Honestly, the deeper you go into this, the better, and there are more than enough companies out there who will help. You’ll want to go ahead and consider water usage, waste generation, and energy consumption throughout your operations. Plus, you’ll want to adopt eco-friendly practices, such as energy-efficient technologies and waste reduction initiatives, to minimize your overall environmental impact.

Does Your Product Have Impact?

It’s not just the products or services that make your product; it goes beyond even that! So, to truly understand the sustainability of your products, conduct a lifecycle analysis. You’ll need to evaluate the environmental impact at each stage, from raw material extraction to production, distribution, use, and eventual disposal. 

This holistic perspective enables you to identify opportunities for improvement and make informed decisions to minimize overall environmental harm. Sure, it’s a lot, but if you purchase an audit service (like mentioned above), then you’ll usually find out this information too. 

How’s Your Energy Consumption?

Better yet, where is your energy consumption coming from? Are the power companies you’re using eco-friendly? Because it’s not just enough to use less energy, but it’s also using a company that doesn’t harm the environment. Ideally, transitioning to renewable energy sources is a hallmark of a sustainable business- it’s one of the better ways to support clean energy and energy companies who are actively trying to focus on producing this, too. 

So, you’ll need to assess your energy consumption and explore options for utilizing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power. In general, a commitment to clean energy not only reduces your carbon footprint but also contributes to the global transition to more sustainable energy practices.

What About Stakeholder Engagement?

It needs to go beyond profit margins; honestly, if you’re only thinking about profit margins, then that’s your first issue. You need to keep in mind that a sustainable business always prioritizes stakeholder engagement beyond profit margins. Always, no matter what. You’ll need to evaluate your relationships with customers, employees, suppliers, and the local community. 

Foster inclusivity, prioritize diversity and equity and engage in community initiatives. Above all else, demonstrating social responsibility and building positive relationships with stakeholders are integral aspects of true sustainability.

Look Into External Validation

Earlier in the article, it was mentioned that you can hire companies to do extensive research on your product and service. Most of these will get right into the nitty gritty, such as where your products are supplied, the company that supplies them, their practices, and it’s a cycle. This is truly one of the best ways to know both in and out that you have a sustainable business- both in terms of ethics and the environment. 

But you can go a step beyond that and look for validation, too- validation that can be used for marketing. So, why not seek external certifications and adhere to industry-recognized sustainability standards such as B Corp, ISO 14001, or Fair Trade? All of these provide third-party validation of your commitment to sustainability. Compliance with these standards not only enhances credibility but also demonstrates accountability to a global framework of best practices.

Keep Staying Authentic and Transparent

It helps a lot to stay entirely transparent about your company’s journey to being better. So, if you haven’t already, why not start being transparent in reporting your environmental and social impact? It’s best to share successes and challenges, not just through generic LinkedIn posts but also by being open with stakeholders. Authenticity in communication builds trust and showcases your genuine commitment to sustainability.

Just Keep Setting Goals to Meet

It’s entirely okay if your business isn’t 100% perfect; all businesses need to take their time when it comes to this. It’s a work in progress. So just go ahead and keep setting sustainability goals, goals you know for a fact that you can reach within a manageable amount of time. 

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