GETTING SUSTAINABILITY OFF THE GROUND: QUICK WINS PART 2

This article is the second in a two part series looking at quick wins in sustainability.

Sustainability is a big and complex challenge. These quick wins are an ideal starting place for anyone looking to get sustainability off the ground in their business. For more information on the first part, please click the link below.

GETTING SUSTAINABILITY OFF THE GROUND: QUICK WINS PART 1

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Let’s now turn to the 3 quick wins that will form the basis of part 2.

4) Focus on signal not noise

Focusing on signal not noise is an excellent way to begin any corporate sustainability journey.

Many businesses become alarmed when faced with the realisation that the way their business is currently constituted is unsustainable. To counter this, many businesses launch a number of strategies covering energy, water and waste. Whilst nobly intentioned, this is the wrong choice. A better choice would be to focus on areas where the maximum leverage can be achieved. A scattergun approach can divert precious attention away from the most important areas.

A sustainability strategy that tries to be all things to all people will likely be a poor strategy. Strategy is about decision making for the future. It is as much about what you decide not to do as what you decide to pursue.

In an initial foray into sustainability, try picking a small area and aim to generate outstanding results in that area. Whether it is energy, water or waste aim to be a leader and create remarkable outcomes in that one field.

Examples to pursue include aiming for zero waste, significant cuts to water consumption or to your total carbon footprint. Aiming for 100% sustainable procurement in certain areas or integrating lifecycle thinking into product design are other good ideas.

Whatever it is, the important thing is to do something. You can always expand your strategy later on to encompass more areas. Sustainability is about joined up thinking. The knowledge that you will gain in your initial foray into sustainability will prove invaluable as you progress forward.

The key takeaway is that yes, sustainability is big and complex. But when you break it down into its constituent parts, the challenge becomes smaller and easier to manage. By focusing on signal and not noise, you can develop an initial sustainability strategy that will get results, motivate and engage your staff and communicate to your stakeholders that you are a responsible business.

5) Monitor and stay ahead of trends

Monitoring and staying ahead of trends is a great way to get sustainability off the ground. Your businesses journey to being the sustainable contractor of choice will not be easy. It can be simplified by anticipating and acting upon changes.  Anyone who has read Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell will know that timing is everything.

Your business needs to be in the right place at the right time. This is unlikely to happen by chance. You need to anticipate areas where customers will be squeezed, either by regulatory or resource constraints. The next step is to act on what you anticipate.

This is an important avenue where you can get social, economic and environmental priorities in alignment. Sustainability is about building a better world. It’s about businesses seizing the opportunity to think differently, to act differently and to communicate differently.

Whatever field it is that your business specialises in, there are going to be ways for you to anticipate and act on changes related to sustainability. The key takeaway is that you need to monitor and stay ahead of trends in order to seize on the opportunities that sustainability can deliver. These are profit making opportunities that are good for people and the planet.

6) Celebrate individual brilliance

Celebrating individual brilliance is an important option for getting sustainability off the ground in a business. As the saying goes: “there’s no I in team, but there are 5 in individual brilliance.

Never underestimate the impact that one passionate and highly motivated employee can make. This person could be an office manager; they could be a facilities manager or a cleaner. If they are passionate about sustainability and want to make the world a better place, nothing can stop individuals like this.

If you have individuals like this in your business, celebrate them, empower them. These extraordinary individuals go above and beyond the call of duty in order to facilitate sustainable change. They can succeed through sheer force of will where countless others have failed.

The key takeaway is that if you are lucky enough to have an individual within your business who will do anything to make sustainability happen, then celebrate their individual brilliance.

What you need to know

This two part series looked into how businesses can get sustainability off the ground by looking for quick wins.

Change is hard; particularly on sustainability, change can be daunting and the whole process can seem like an impossible challenge. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There are easy wins, tactics and strategies that businesses can use to jump start sustainability at an organisational level. These quick wins are an essential first step for businesses to achieve. They can help get sustainability off the ground. Once they have achieved these, they can then go on to climb higher towards environmental excellence.

The quick wins that were identified and analysed were:

1)    Leverage your strengths

2)   Procure sustainably

3)   Engage with your customers

4)   Focus on signal not noise

5)   Monitor and stay ahead of trends

6)   Celebrate individual brilliance

Some are obvious business best practice and others require thinking in new ways.

Thank you for reading,

By Barnaby Nash

If you liked this two part series, please comment at the bottom. As always please share any other thoughts in the comments section below. It’s great to hear about other people’s experiences in taking sustainability forward.

Let’s stay connected

I can be reached on LinkedIn and on Twitter @FollowBarnaby

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