Shaping your sustainable future

Published by Jake Standing on 21 February 2022

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Business priorities naturally change and evolve in response to the political, economic, socio-cultural and technological environments. Sometimes those priorities need to change almost overnight, as we saw with the pandemic, and in other instances, change will happen over many years.

Businesses have over the past decade looked to minimise the impact they have on our planet by reducing their carbon footprint or adopting new sustainable business practices.

In our Shaping your future research and report, over half (51%) of businesses told us that they are to a ‘great extent’ and a further 36% are to ‘some extent’ becoming more socially responsible and purpose-led.

There are many compelling reasons for every organisation to change the way they do business, not least of which is to help protect our precious planet. We will touch on two reasons – attracting and retaining staff and winning new business – in this article.

But first, it might be helpful to share our journey as a way of illustrating where a business can start and, importantly, measure its progress.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

It is perhaps a cliché but one with an element of truth in that accountants like to measure activity. That is why when we started our sustainability journey, we looked to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and standards held by B Corps.

There are 17 SDGs in total, with each goal having clear targets and a programme to help businesses achieve that goal. Not all 17 SDGs may be relevant or achievable for businesses. We have started by identifying four achievable goals in which to define our progress: ‘Good health and wellbeing’, ‘Quality education’, ‘Reduced inequalities’ and ‘Climate action’.

We report on our progress against these SDGs every year, alongside our wider charitable and corporate social responsibility activity in our CSR Impact Report.

It is a helpful and well-supported way for any business looking to take or build upon its sustainability journey.

A strong employer brand

The labour market is heating up with people finding it easier to move jobs and with more choice for better flexibility, working conditions and culture and values. With businesses squeezed on many fronts – for example, with increased energy costs, supply chain delays and tax increases – employers need to look beyond wage increases to attract and keep good people. A strong employer brand is critical.

Businesses that have strong sustainable credentials where they look to make a positive impact on the environment and the communities in which they operate will be at a competitive advantage.

Employees increasingly want to work for an employer who does the right thing, that treats the environment, businesses in their supply chains, and their own staff in a sustainable and ethical way.

This needs to be more than just words – we are alive more than ever to greenwashing – and a commitment to sustainability is a valued and powerful tool.

Competitive advantage

Equally, the sustainability agenda is now firmly on the minds of customers and clients. Individuals are increasingly making ethical choices in their buying behaviours and businesses expect their suppliers to hold the same high standards they stand for.

Service-led businesses and suppliers to the public sector will be particularly alive to this having for many years had to clearly state the sustainability credentials and how they are measured.

And whilst this can be considered good practice, it is not unreasonable to expect legislation in the near future that will require businesses to take responsibility and reduce the impact they have on our planet.

Businesses that have strong sustainable practices will naturally have a head start if and when faced with legislation.

Further reading

The following resources may help businesses who are on their own sustainability journey:

For more information about the topic explored in this article, contact us here.

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