The Transition to a Truly Sustainable Business

Comparing the different concepts of a circular and linear economy. 

Businesses are constantly coming under increasing pressure that continues to challenge their very existence, so it’s easy to appreciate that issues which arise during the course of any given working day will invariably outweigh the opportunities of tomorrow. Pressures that come from regulation, local government controls, competition, consumers, lobbying groups and even a firm’s own employees, make running a business today a highly complex activity. These pressures combine to apply further pressure on the goods and services offered and the prices charged. But businesses that have the capacity to place themselves at the centre of their environmental and societal obligations, can use this aspect to manage the impact of their activities and ultimately drive cost benefits to the bottom line making these factors less of a burden today and improve their chance of commercial success in the future.

Consequently, with more companies considering their environmental impact and how their brands are perceived, there is a compelling argument to suggest that clearly defined strategies which place a greater emphasis on the environment will significantly contribute to their longevity and also be essential for winning the hearts and minds of many of today’s customers.

But where do you start with your environmental factors, when they have the capacity to impact so many areas of your business? We provide a solution that audits the current impact and provides you with a pathway to embed this into your firm’s systems so that you can have the tools to drive those cost benefits year-on-year without any adverse impact on the business operations.

The level of detail and complexity of the benchmarking audit will vary depending on the context of the organisation, the scope of its systems, your obligations, activities and your products and services. You might be delivering some environmental improvements already, but the ultimate aim should be to progress towards a fully integrated ‘System Value’ proposition (highlighted below).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source – Future Fit Business Benchmark 2017

The Environmental Audit – Overview

We can help you achieve long-term sustainable improvements with your environmental footprint by taking a ‘root and branch’ approach by considering a range of five specific factors which forms the foundation of our model. These factors are: –

  • Leadership and Commitment
  • Understanding Scope and Context
  • Risks and Opportunities
  • Interested Parties
  • Think Lifecycle

Leadership and Commitment

Your senior management is accountable for the success of your business and as such can lead, promote and direct others to ensure they drive business improvements. But changes to environmental practices across the wider business issues may well be a larger step change from the existing, rudimentary requirement for management to carry on with ‘business as usual’. As such, it’s not immediately obvious or natural for many employees to consider the importance of their role in environmental resource management. Consequently, strategic support is most likely necessary in order to transform this attitude before a positive integration of enhanced environmental processes becomes central to the organisation’s ethos and working practices.

Once fully integrated with all your business processes and personnel, those changes will extend your current environmental management policy from a simple one of pollution prevention (material waste/noise etc.) to a fully strategic commitment to environmental protection and balance.

Understanding Scope and Context

A forward-thinking business will place more consideration on external issues and consider the support it receives from its Tier One and Tier Two supply chain partners e.g. their ‘Interested Parties’, demonstrating a collective understanding of the broader issues in which you operate and ensuring your business is able to respond to them effectively in order to meet its intended growth targets. This requires an understanding of your organisation’s direction, culture and resources and external influences.

Risks and Opportunities

Current ‘business-as-usual’ solutions are not sufficient for achieving positive environmental change in a resource-constrained and inequitable society.

All companies face the same types of pressure, pressure from markets, regulation, their internal structure, job roles and responsibilities and stakeholder expectations which combine to shape management thinking and future planning outcomes that are subsequently influenced by the firm’s financial prudence.

Set against this is the realisation that consumers are becoming increasingly focused on having longer term relationships with their suppliers, a decision they ultimately reach based on a firm’s most visible attributes e.g. how/when you react to regulation, your ‘track-record’ and the overarching ‘face’ of your company’s attitude towards the environment.

Fortunately, there are financial schemes available to encourage businesses to invest in green initiatives, so regardless of your reasoning, whether it’s on the grounds of deep-rooted ethics or if it’s simply a case of helping you achieve a level of differentiation that price alone simply fails to do, what matters most is that you choose to improve the environmental position.

Interested Party Analysis

Many SME’s do not perceive their own environmental impact as significant when they set their views against those of larger firms, but collectively of course, they are, particularly when they account for 58% of employment and 99% of UK businesses. Therefore, it’s vital that in order to embed environmental benefits at the heart of your company, the analysis considers not only your internal impacts but those of your supply chain which are co-responsible for the position you occupy. Consequently, our audit will look deeply into the processes and plans and needs of your external stakeholders too (customers, local communities, regulators, NGOs etc).

Think Lifecycle

We will give further consideration too, for the environmental impacts of your product/service from a ‘life cycle’ increasingly referred to as the ‘Circular Economy’, providing advice on how you may be able to control or influence the impact of them at each stage. This would require an extension into environmental aspects at each stage of the lifecycle of your products or services (acquisition of raw materials, design, production, transportation/delivery, use, end of life treatment and final disposal) including both onsite and offsite activities.

Where appropriate, environmental requirements could be included at the design stage and during procurement and information about potential significant environmental impacts can be provided during the delivery, use and end-of-life treatment of the product or service.

If you would like to discuss any of the elements included within this article, please feel free to get in touch with us by sending an email to me, Nigel Davis

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