KATIE BURROWS TAKES A LOOK AT BUILDING THE PERFECT BUSINESS CASE FOR SUSTAINABILITY
For many of us, sustainability is an everyday practice – a mindset we actively choose to cultivate for the good of the planet and those around us. We’re well familiar with the benefits, both on an individual and collective scale, and have taken measures to reduce our own carbon footprint.
But bringing these values to the workplace and asking others to do same can often feel like a losing battle. When you’re the only person in the room that lives and breathes sustainability at work, it’s far from easy to educate your superiors about the benefits of greener practices – especially when making sustainable changes is often linked with pressure to spend more money.
So, here are some top reasons that will help flesh out a robust business case to the decision makers of your organisation.
Reputation and customer loyalty
If you’re part of a consumer-facing organisation, your customers are at the focus of everything you do. Whether the business is reviewing its manufacturing processes, customer service offering or management structure, the outcome of change is expected to benefit the consumers that invest their time and money in your service or product.
But who says that customers care about how sustainable your practices are?
Well, according to research by Unilever, a third of consumers now choose to buy from brands who they believe are doing social or environmental good. Whether that be reducing the amount of plastic packaging they use, recycling products or using a sustainable energy source, it all counts towards reducing your carbon footprint. The research also found that ‘sustainable brands grew 46 per cent faster than the rest of the business and delivered 70 per cent of its turnover growth.’
It’s important to start with your business first, and implement the changes that will help to reduce your carbon footprint in the long run. However, it’s also becoming increasingly important for companies to look further along the supply chain. Pledging to improve sustainability has become a common trend among businesses all over the world in recent years, as consumers demand more visibility and are increasingly willing to do their own research into what processes have a negative impact on the environment.
Take Sainsburys, for example, who recently pledged to invest in a greener future for the whole business. Not only does that include the obvious, like reducing the amount of plastic packaging that sits on their shelves, but it also includes ensuring that their suppliers are committed to reducing their carbon emissions.
Attracting and retaining talent
It’s not only your consumers that care about your carbon footprint – it’s your workforce too. A report by PwC found that over two thirds (65 per cent) of people around the world want to work for a company with a powerful social conscience.
Organisations that consciously look to improve levels of sustainability have quickly become something that job seekers actively search for, with many now looking for a transparent employer that has strong ethical values. So, if the board wants to be able to attract top talent and have their pick of a wide bunch, their commitment to making sustainable changes could have a significant impact.
Ultimately, existing workforces will be required to keep up with changes, while a young workforce with new skills will become invaluable due to rapid rates of innovation. As employers increasingly try to attract young talent, sustainability becomes more and more important. That’s because young people are very aware of their personal brand, including their efforts to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and where they work directly impacts this.
As climate change has become a more pressing issue within our society over recent years, the pressure on businesses to commit to a greener strategy and actively reduce their carbon footprint has been mounting. The UK Government has committed to achieving net zero by 2050, while the target in Scotland is even more ambitious – 2045.
It falls upon business and organisations within the UK to make rapid adjustments to their policies, processes and products in this time, and so starting to make changes as soon as possible is vital. Almost half of UK businesses have already put plans in place to reach net zero by 2050, with one in ten already there.
So far, there has been a vast improvement in the amount of carbon emissions that are produced in the UK, particularly through electricity generation. A third (33.3 per cent) of electricity generated in the UK in 2018 came from renewable sources, and whilst this was a vast improvement on previous years, this number needs to continue to rise to meet net zero.
As a part of reaching net zero by 2050, the UK government has brought forward its ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2040 to 2035. As a business, investing in electric vehicles is a huge investment, but it’s one that shouldn’t be immediately dismissed. There are a lot of things to be considered, but making the transition to electric vehicles will have both a significant impact on your carbon footprint and even save the business money in the long run. That’s because EV’s can help a business save around 20 per cent on fuel costs and 30 per cent on maintenance, with the added benefits of free road tax and a lack of congestion charges, too.
Saving money through energy consumption
Whether it’s mostly used to power machinery, refrigerators or computers, energy often accounts for a significant percentage of an organisation’s operating costs. And, while the decarbonisation of the UK’s energy supply to achieve net zero is predicted to cost over £1 trillion, the board are likely to want to know exactly how this might impact the business’ profitability. According to our own research here at Haven Power, over a third (37 per cent) of businesses think that it would be too costly to implement renewable energy, but we actually know that businesses can use renewable energy to save money.
The easiest way to gain an understanding of how energy consumption can impact the business and its carbon footprint is to engage in a conversation with an energy supplier directly. An expert is the most likely person to know how your business specifically can reduce their energy consumption and therefore their carbon footprint.
An expert might, for example, suggest joining Demand Side Response (DSR) programmes, which give you the opportunity to earn extra revenue by altering your energy consumption patterns. Or, perhaps switching to a self-generated or stored electricity at peak times might be of benefit, as this is when power is at its most expensive.
If you have the land and resources available, generating your own electricity using solar panels or a wind farm could be a great way to make some additional revenue. Organisations can get paid for generating their own electricity by setting up a renewable Purchase Power Agreement (PPA) with their energy supplier. It means your business receives the financial benefit of selling energy back to the grid, just without the administration.
Committing to using greener practices as an organisation is not only a positive way to reduce your carbon footprint and reduce your negative impact on the planet, but there are also numerous benefits to the organisation from a business perspective. Offering a vast range of benefits, implementing more sustainable measures is an essential way to future-proof your organisation, enabling you to keep up with the competition and having a positive impact on your consumers.
Ensuring that your business case for sustainability is backed by strong, relevant and relatable arguments is the key to helping the decision makers above you share your vision for change.
Katie Burrows is Energy Services Solutions Manager at Haven Power, a specialist electricity supplier offering 100 per cent renewable electricity – and associated services – to UK businesses. Simple yet flexible, its supply contracts are designed to meet the individual needs of a range of customer – from local and regional enterprises to national corporates. Haven Power is part of Drax Group, which owns the UK’s largest power station – also Europe’s largest decarbonisation project.