We are being asked to ‘invest in our planet’, but how can you lead a sustainable organisation? The Carbon majors report found that just 100 companies were responsible for 71% of global emissions in 2017. Now in 2023, it is time for all organisations to become part of the solution and introduce more sustainable strategies. Introducing sustainable strategies or a ‘values-driven’ approach to business is vital to long-term success. Organisations that engage in more sustainable behaviours can increase profits and grow their consumer base. Dr. James Ring, Ingenium CEO, and Environmental Chemist discusses the benefits of sustainability for organisations.
James, in your opinion, what does a sustainable organisation look like?
It is essential to think about this question through four lenses and if we are serious about this word, sustainability, all must apply.
The first is environmental sustainability. This is becoming critical, back when I studied environmental science in the late 90s and early 00s we knew the storm was brewing out to sea, but now it has hit land and we really have no more time to mess around. All companies must aim to cut fossil fuel consumption to zero and replace it with renewable alternatives, this has to be non-negotiable if we are to leave our planet in a better way than we found it. The second is human sustainability, working to help people live longer, happier, healthier lives. Ensure we have a low infant and maternal mortality rates, people have access to education, healthcare, food, medicines, etc. The third is social sustainability. This is very much linked to human sustainability, it means creating and maintaining the basic constructs of society, fostering trust, ensuring that all of society feels it can contribute and participate bound together by respect for rules of law, respect for diversity, tolerance for differences, etc. The fourth is financial sustainability. The company must run properly, it must balance its books and make profits, it is usually the point of going into business in the first place, you literally cannot be sustainable without it. On the other hand, we must try to resist greed and unfortunately, greed often wins. Short-term financial gain triumphs at the expense of the other 3 lenses.
An organisation that is truly sustainable cares about all four. It does all it can to protect the environment, and look after its people and the communities around it but also runs correctly, balancing the books, looking at the longer-term picture, and growing towards that.
How can organisations become more sustainable?
Make the conscious decision that it is a priority for your organisation. To be honest, it isn’t rocket science, it’s common sense. There are plenty of things you can do, both large and small, but you must be committed to achieving them.
What are the benefits of integrating sustainable strategies?
The reality is that you can actually save a huge amount of money operating sustainably, whether it’s things like exploring if your waste can be another organisation’s raw material. Improving process efficiency to save money. Training your team to upskill to better technologies. On top of this we also know that the younger generations are actively looking to work with organisations who are taking sustainability, particularly environmental sustainability seriously so in talent wars, it really does matter now.
How can you lead sustainably?
Like everything it is about actions speaking louder than words. You cannot flick a switch overnight and just have everything sustainable in an instant. It takes time and money. You need to look out into the future, where are you heading, set timelines and milestones and budgets, get imaginative, hold yourself accountable to deliver and over time you will be amazed by what can be achieved. But for me, the big flashing red light will be to stop burning fossil fuels. This is happening, we work with energy services companies, and they are all planning to decrease reliability on oil and gas and move towards more sustainable energy sources.
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