This article looks at minimisation as a sustainability strategy and how businesses can find minimisation opportunities.
Corporate sustainability is about making a business viable for the long term. Sustainability strategies are what need to be implemented in order to make this happen.
In most circumstances, there will be things that your business does that are unsustainable. These unsustainable operations need to be significantly reduced or eliminated whilst taking business interests into account. The good news is that with a shift to a mind-set that sees sustainability as an area of unlimited opportunities business interests and environmental and social interests can coalesce.
This article looks at minimisation as a sustainability strategy, with a focus on three key areas.
1. Waste minimisation
Waste minimisation is a great place to begin a sustainability strategy. Everybody agrees waste is bad and so this is an excellent way to engage staff in the sustainability process.
Looking for processes and procedures that generate waste is easy, but if it is to be done correctly it is a thorough process that requires rigour and inquisitiveness. This is not the glamorous side of sustainability, but it is very important.
Your sustainability team or persons concerned with sustainability need to be familiar with all the raw materials, energy, water and other resources that the business is utilising. Then calculations need to be made as to what percentages of these are being wasted. Look for material of value that is being discarded, spoiled or going unused.
To get this process started, you should monitor and track the resource inputs and outputs for at least three months. This should give you a good idea of what is going on inside your business. Measurement is the key to sustainability.
A great way to crowdsource ideas quickly is to ask your employees to come forward with ideas for waste minimisation. Employees could be rewarded for coming forward with ideas that lead to waste minimisation and cash savings. A great scheme that I really like is the GE Ecomagination project. This used many of these ideas and has been fantastically successful.
There is a good chance that an operation that generates waste material can be turned into a savings opportunity for your company. Resources are precious and should be treated as such. Another company that is doing a great job and improving the sustainability image of the coffee chain industry is bio-bean.
If coffee grounds can be recycled into advanced biofuels and biochemicals, there is a good chance that waste materials in your business can be recycled into something valuable.
2. Stakeholder concerns
The correct application of the stakeholder theory is imperative if businesses are to become sustainable. Stakeholder theory addresses morals and values in managing an organization. I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating. Sustainability is at its best when it is on the territory of values, and if it can get onto the territory of morals then that is a winning combination.
Stakeholder concerns could be addressed by a head of corporate social responsibility or someone in charge of customer service. This is another great way to crowdsource ideas for minimisation opportunities.
By engaging with your internal and external stakeholders, they may come forward with valuable ideas and complaints regarding sustainability. It could very well be the case that they are at a more advanced stage in terms of sustainability and you should welcome and encourage their input.
By identifying and reducing any areas of friction between your organisation and its stakeholders you will be saving your business time, money and building up goodwill for the future.
This sort of stakeholder engagement and remediation is often highly cost effective, particularly when the benefits of an enhanced reputation are factored into brand valuations. Responsible businesses engage with and work to minimise any areas of concern that their stakeholders have.
Benchmarking your company against others is a great way to improve the sustainability of your operations.
There are three possible outcomes. You are behind your competitors and therefore need to catch up. You are close to your competitors and therefore need to create clear water. Or you are way ahead of your competitors and should therefore look to enlarge this gap. All three outcomes of the benchmarking process lead to sustainability increasing in importance.
The chances are that you can learn valuable lessons from how your competitors are reducing their energy, water and waste. What are their strategies, how successful have they been, have they plateaued or are they winning awards? These are all the things that you need to know and then feed the information back into your own organisation and its processes.
This process has been made easier because of the proliferation of sustainability reporting. Many companies will be very candid about what they have reduced and how they reduced it. You can then use this intelligence in your own minimisation strategy.
If planned and executed correctly benchmarking your company against others is a highly valuable exercise.
What you need to know
This article looked at minimisation as a sustainability strategy and how businesses can find minimisation opportunities.
It focussed upon three areas in particular. They were:
1. Waste minimisation
2. Stakeholder concerns
All three of these areas are quite different, but if acted upon achieve similar goals. Businesses produce negative externalities, these need to be found and reduced or eliminated completely. It is not an easy process to carry this out, but it is highly rewarding.
It is also not a one-time quick fix procedure. There are many quick wins that can be had on sustainability, but minimisation is not in this category. It is an iterative process, which demands revisiting and reworking at a later date. The key is to have accurate measurements to work with, a great imagination and a positive mental attitude. With that, there are few problems within sustainability that you cannot solve.
Thank you for reading,
By Barnaby Nash
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.