Is sustainability compatible with business?
The Triple Bottom Line — people, planet and profits — makes a case that companies can thrive without harming the world. It’s a radical idea compared to the centuries of damage done in the name of industry.
But is it really possible for a brand to succeed without jeopardising people and the planet? Modern slavery and resource misuse still need to be tackled. Yet with the changing demands of consumers, sustainability might now be the smartest business decision you could make.
So let’s take a look for ourselves: is sustainability compatible with business?
Not just an ethical standpoint
Sustainability is not all hemp trousers and chickpeas. It’s the radical idea that we should treat the world as if its resources aren’t infinite — because they aren’t.
And, today, it’s also a wise economic move. 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products and that trend is on the rise. Generation Z — those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s — are seen as even more eco-minded than their millennial counterparts.
So if your company sells products, whether it’s shampoo or furniture, it’s a wise move to cater to this new consumer.
Yes, initial investments in recycled, ethical materials will be high. While the market adapts, that’s unavoidable. But the long-term benefits could be huge — and that’s what thinking sustainably is all about.
Sustainability doesn’t need a revolution
Of the countless cliches about sustainability, none is more damaging than the idea that it requires all-out revolution. It’s not about returning to tribal living and small-scale agriculture. Sustainability is focused on finding modern problems to contemporary problems.
The biggest problem of all, in fact: how humans can continue to live on Earth for millennia to come.
That cannot be solved without technology. Think of the savings in greenhouse gas emissions resulting from electric cars and renewable energy. Those savings will only improve as we find new materials and manufacturing techniques. We are not shutting ourselves off to development, but merely suggesting a different route.
Do we need to make sacrifices?
Of course, we wouldn’t need to geoengineer our way out of climate disaster if we all used a little less. But we’ve been sold the idea that the world is there for the taking, so it’ll take generations to shift that attitude.
While we should all be conscious of cutting back where we can — making sustainable decisions at work and at home — it’s not the only solution.
The most positive thing you and your company can do is be a leader in the sustainability movement. What that means varies depending on your position. Are you CEO of a Fortune 500 company? If so, your sphere of influence extends a long way. Subtle changes you make could have a big impact.
But even if you’re running a single-person operation, you can affect real change. The average person has more power than we suspect. A big life change from one individual could soon spread to dozens, then hundreds, then thousands. You have the chance to spread positive change around the globe.
3 simple things your company can do towards sustainability
- Adopt the Triple Bottom Line — Stop viewing success through the sole lens of profit. The longevity of your business (and the planet) depends on consideration for people and the environment.
- Switch to renewable energy — We recommend this all the time. It takes a matter of minutes and will cut your company’s carbon footprint immediately. Get your energy from solar and wind power for an easy win.
- Set aside time for sustainability — Taking real-life action will help you engage with the issue. Take a day each month to get your hands dirty. That could be volunteering at a nature reserve or seeing a talk on sustainable business. Get stuck in and really feel the problems we’re facing.
The journey towards sustainability — in industry and in our personal lives — is long and arduous. We’re all at different stages, so ups and downs are natural. But once we all realise that there is a chance to be better, there’s nothing stopping us.