How a sustainability strategy can help your business grow

Crains Detroit
April 22, 2024

When you think of all the risks and opportunities facing your business today, sustainability may not be top of mind – yet. For some, it may seem like a passing trend or something that only big companies need to think about.

Yet the adoption of corporate sustainability, including the transition to a low-carbon economy, is already underway and it’s going to affect most companies. How you respond could influence your ability to maintain and strengthen existing and new key business relationships within your supply chain and beyond, attract the best employees and customers, stay ahead of evolving regulations, and more.

While some of your competitors may be slow to embrace the change that’s underway, there are several ‘no-regret’ steps your company can take so that sustainability pays off for your business in the years ahead.

Protect your place in the supply chain and gain market share. Already, nearly 90% of global emissions are now covered under a national sustainability target, and more companies every day are setting these targets. Importantly, these companies are assessing not just their operations, but companies across their supply chains. If they haven’t already, chances are that companies you depend on for your business will soon be requiring you to meet similar targets and sustainability standards.

Be proactive. Ask the companies you work with about their sustainability goals and where you fit in. Use that information to help guide your sustainability journey. As slow-to-respond competitors struggle to catch up, you could stand to gain market share.

Stay ahead of regulations. While businesses are no strangers to regulation, mandates for firms of all sizes to disclose detailed information on emissions and business practices are increasing, as evidenced by California’s new regulations that impact firms all over the U.S. Get a head start by establishing processes for assessing and reporting your emissions and use of water and other resources. Rather than viewing this as a distraction from your business, consider it an integral part of your operations, yielding valuable and actionable insights to drive value.

Invest in cleaner energy to lower your costs. Equipment, utilities and office supplies are among the top costs for most businesses. Incremental investments in efficient lighting, heating and cooling can have quick paybacks and are just the start.

Make sustainability an integral part of your brand. The intangible benefits of working toward sustainability may be as valuable as the tangible ones. Consider that 58% of consumers say they buy from or advocate for brands they believe in, 60% say their beliefs and values influence where they choose to work, and 75% worry about climate change, according to the 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer. Above all else, telling an authentic story about your efforts toward sustainable operations could strengthen your brand and help you attract and keep valued employees.

Gain near-term benefits without knowing all the answers. Committing to sustainability may seem daunting, especially at first. But the fact is, nobody has all the answers. While the business community is establishing standards for cleaner business practices and ways to measure progress, knowledge of how to get there will continue to evolve.

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The Institute for Sustainability Africa (INŚAF) is an independent multi-disciplinary think tank and research institute founded in Zimbabwe in 2010 with the Vision to advance sustainability initiatives for Africa.