Why Sustainability is Both an Opportunity and a Challenge for Brands
Learn what the main challenges companies face when trying to be more sustainable, followed by the added benefits associated with such efforts.
Why Companies Should Be More Sustainable
Economic, social, and environmental sustainability concerns are not only a benefit to corporations of all sizes but also a must in today’s business environment.
And the positive outcomes associated with corporate sustainability are not only beneficial to the environment, but also towards the overall business success.
Let me explain.
There are lots of ways in which being more sustainable helps a business strive: sustainability increases efficiency, improves your brand value and reputation, provides a platform for innovation, helps attract esteemed talent… among a variety of other rewards.
In fact, nearly 40% of millennials have taken a job because of the company’s sustainability, being even willing to take a paycut to work at an environmentally responsible company.
But even though it is said that 90% of executives believe that sustainability is essential, only 60% of companies actually have an eco-strategy put in place. One of the reasons for this is because, many times, corporations don’t see the full value of implementing sustainable strategies that go beyond simply complying with a “growing trend”.
After all… going green requires ongoing work and dedication.
Indeed, we cannot deny that there are many challenges allied with implementing more sustainability to any business. But it goes without saying that the benefits absolutely outperform any doubts and hassles associated with such difficulties.
With that in mind, after reading this post you’ll have a better understanding of what are the main challenges companies face when trying to be more sustainable, followed by the added benefits associated with such efforts.
Sustainability in Business: What Does It Mean?
But before we dive deeper into the challenges and benefits involved with corporate sustainability, it’s important we define what this actually means.
In simple terms, business sustainability (also known as “green business”) is the practice of operating an organization while limiting its negative impact on the environment. These types of businesses act in the best interests of the local and global conditions.
This preoccupation comes at an extra cost to companies (be it guaranteeing the compliance of its employees, investing in eco-friendlier infrastructure, switching to more expensive, sustainable resources, and even having to adapt to otherwise more traditional ways of conducting day-to-day operations).
How is Sustainability a Challenge for Brands?
Gone are the days when we didn’t need to consider the environmental consequences of the things we produced.
With the advancement of the internet and social media to help spread the word to otherwise uninformed people, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious and attentive towards protecting the planet, its animals, and the people living in it.
Though sustainability has many positive impacts on businesses (which will be addressed further in this post), implementing such changes can also be quite a challenge.
Here are some of the biggest difficulties that businesses face when trying to become more sustainable with their modus operandi.
1. The Extra Cost
We all know by now that purchasing environmentally friendly alternatives come at an extra price. One of the reasons for this is because such products don’t benefit from the economy of scale to be produced, which can easily drive up the cost.
Cutting corners allows businesses to produce quicker and sell more at a lower price point. The alternative—having a sustainable supply chain— means producing less quantity and selling at a higher price point.
It’s one thing to aim to be sustainable, but it’s a whole other thing to actually manage to be it. And this comes at an even larger commitment to bigger companies — it can be hard to control or determine the level of engagement each employee has towards the company’s sustainable development.
Truth be told, unfortunately, not everyone cares about such practices and these people can easily ignore company-aspired eco practices.
To tackle this issue, it’s important that companies have a strong sustainable culture put in place which reinforces the importance of complying with these important matters.
3. Supply Chain
Supply chain scandals revolving around issues such as working conditions and child labor have surrounded the retail sector for years.
As an example, Zara has allegedly benefited from “slave labor conditions” in countries such as Brazil. Long working hours, subpar payment, and difficult work conditions are just a few of the ghosts hunting some of the employees working for retail giants, especially in fast fashion.
4. Lack of Resources
Some businesses don’t think they have the needed resources — namely, time and money — to properly and effectively implement sustainability strategies. However, the good news is that you don’t have to become a green business all at once.
You can start small and make affordable changes as time goes by. This alone is already better than not doing anything at all. And as you continue to cut costs, you’ll be able to afford more extensive changes (win-win).
How Can Sustainability Be Good for Companies?
Despite the apparent obstacles that obstruct a company’s desire towards being more sustainable, there are also a variety of benefits that favor such attempts.
Indeed, sustainability in business isn’t just good for the environment or society as a whole — it’s also beneficial for the business in itself.
Next, let’s cover some of the many benefits of running a more sustainable business.
1. Reduces Business Costs
Yes, you read it right. You can actually reduce your business costs by going green.
Granted, “greening” your business takes an initial, necessary investment, but you’ll see that over time you’ll save more money than ever before.
Solar panels, for example, might seem like a hefty investment at first. But the amount of energy saved is directly proportional to the money you will save as the years go by. According to McKinsey, a sustainability strategy can reduce costs substantially and can affect operating profits by as much as 60%.
2. Improves Business’ Reputation
People view sustainability as a desired plus, and for that reason, companies with green values are eager to comply. Resilient retailers are turning sustainability into the key to success for their businesses.
According to Forbes, among the most prominent companies for corporate social responsibility, Lego comes in at No. 3 because of its decision to make Legos from plant-based sources. This was a measure that caused consumers to admire and respect Lego, which in turn contributes to the company’s ever-growing success to this day.
Going green shows the world you care about more than just making a quick buck. You can use this to your advantage when marketing your business and developing your brand identity.
3. Sustainability Allows You to Connect With Your Customers in Meaningful Ways
The shared mindset of caring for the world and something bigger than business helps retailers establish an opportunity to develop deeper emotional connections with consumers in a way that matters.
Companies such as The Swiss Impact Store are doing a great job at connecting this common mindset with their clients, with their logo stating “we care that you care”.
4. Provides Competitive Advantage
Sustainability – once considered by retailers as a hefty cost tied to a temporary consumer trend – is now becoming more widely recognized as a source of competitive advantage that can help drive top-line growth.
In fact, according to Accenture’s study on corporate sustainability, 99% of chief executives from the world’s leading organizations say sustainability is critical to their future success.
Time to Go Green
Rest assured that implementing sustainable practices to your business is not a trend that will go away.
As younger generations care more and more for companies that show concern for the world, going green can not only help you stand out as “one of the good guys”, but it allows you to connect with your customers in meaningful ways (while saving money as a desirable surplus).
Don’t let obstacles towards being more sustainable impede you from implementing eco-solutions to your business. Truth be told, if you fall behind such practices, your business might become more and more obsolete as the years go by.
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Ana is the voice (erm, hands?) behind Ana Palombini Copywriting, where she provides B2B copy for SaaS, Tech and entrepreneurs. Once graduated from a university where suits were mandatory, she is now a firm believer that work + sweatpants are a better match than ketchup and fries. When she is not furiously typing ‘till her fingers are numb, you’ll find her watching Friends for the millionth time or having late-night sushi from her couch (or both). Say hi on Linkedin or check out her website.
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