Want to reduce your company’s environmental impact, but not sure where to start? Whether you’re a large or small business, embarking on the quest for sustainability might feel overwhelming if your operations have been less than planet-friendly in the past. Take a deep breath, small steps, and some pointers from an organization that’s on a similar journey.
When you’re ready to boost your firm’s sustainability efforts, start by challenging the common assumption that industry and sustainability don’t mix. While these two ideas may seem at odds in action, the corporate sphere is proving they go hand in hand. To have a chance of achieving corporate sustainability, you must believe your business can drive positive environmental outcomes.
The road to a greener business? Laying a foundation of sustainability in your work culture. Here’s your guide to building sustainability into your corporate value system.
1. Adopt the attitude and actions of a sustainable business
Pave the way for sustainable business practices by ingraining environmental responsibility in your corporate mindset. The first step: securing buy-in from key stakeholders, starting with senior management. Sustainability initiatives that come from the top down are more successful and easier to implement than efforts without top-of-the-ladder support. Make sure senior leadership aligns on the idea of becoming a sustainable business before moving on to the next step.
If the initial meeting about environmental responsibility turns into a longer conversation than expected, don’t be discouraged; depending on your organization, integrating sustainability into the business model might require an 180-degree mindset shift or spark further conversation around corporate social responsibility. Rest assured: Corporate sustainability talk, no matter how long it takes, is essential for consensus.
Once senior leadership agrees to go green, infuse sustainability into your corporate mission. Stamping positive environmental impact into your corporate code will set the stage for your next moves: crafting an eco-friendly business strategy and looking through the lens of sustainability as you make company decisions. Use sustainability as a guide to help you thread environmental responsibility through every aspect of your organization and adjust collective behavior.
2. Establish an internal committee to manage sustainability initiatives
Developing a sustainability strategy and putting it to work are no easy feats; and training your entire staff to recognize Mother Earth as a stakeholder will take the power of multiple people. How to create such effective influence? Set up an environmental impact team.
Your environmental task force can handle a variety of projects, including:
- Hosting community cleanups
- Circulating information about upcoming sustainability events
- Rewarding employees who participate in sustainability efforts
- Replacing shared plastic kitchenware with reusable utensils and cups
- Encouraging employees to bring reusable drinkware
- Providing education about climate change, renewable energy, fossil fuels, and conservation of natural resources
- Overseeing a transition to paperless operations
- Spearheading greener procurement processes
- Slashing water usage by fixing dripping taps and plumbing leaks
- Rallying support for external sustainability initiatives, like carbon offset programs
- Suggesting tweaks to the business model for enhanced sustainability
- Leading waste diversion efforts via recycling and composting programs
- Kicking off discussions about corporate carbon neutrality
Some projects will affect the overall business strategy and/or call for sizable investment. No matter how fast your company can start making changes or afford to spend on launching the program, any discussion that occurs is a sign your organization is taking corporate sustainability seriously.
To lower your company’s carbon footprint and dependence on raw materials, your environmental impact team might also assess the sustainability of your office buildings. Renovations like the installation of solar panels, charging stations for electric vehicles, and drought-tolerant landscaping involve considerable coordination, time and capital, but other upgrades — including the ideas in the following list — are easier, faster, and cheaper to implement:
- Designating carpool parking spots
- Constructing secure bike racks
- Updating lighting with LED bulbs and motion sensors
- Sourcing sustainable office furniture
- Replacing paper towels with air dryers in bathrooms and kitchens
- Installing low-flow toilets and faucet aerators in bathrooms
If a large remodel is in the cards, don’t send reusable material to landfills. Donate used supplies to organizations (like Habitat for Humanity) that fund the construction of low-income housing by selling everything from used appliances to lumber. This type of donation makes your business eligible for a charitable tax deduction.
With your environmental impact team and senior management working together, your organization will be one step closer to achieving corporate sustainability.
3. Set corporate sustainability goals
Map out your company’s environmental objectives for the next few years with your impact and leadership teams. As you think about your desired outcomes, consider all stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, employees, the local community, and the environment. A few tips:
- Pinpoint malleable business processes
- Prioritize high-impact initiatives
- Break up lofty endeavors (like going carbon neutral or zero waste) into manageable phases
If you get stuck, consider using a methodology — such as a materiality analysis — to uncover the ways your organization can make a difference. A materiality analysis helps companies identify and estimate the feasibility of changes by asking questions like:
- What does the company care about?
- What does the team see as the business’ contributions to society?
- Which challenges does the organization face?
- What value does the company provide?
The answers will show you the problems your organization can solve.
For broader insights, ask external partners to answer these questions about your firm. Together, the internal and external findings will create a framework for sustainable business practices.
4. Form your sustainability strategy, then implement it
You’ve secured buy-in from upper management, established an internal team to focus on environmental responsibility, and slated well-developed sustainability targets. Now what?
Devise a sustainability strategy with tactics to measure your progress. Tracking performance metrics like time, spend, audits, and certifications will help you understand whether or not your sustainability efforts are paying off.
Think about the following indicators as you build your strategy:
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Products and services
Once you’ve created a corporate sustainability strategy, hold employees accountable for completing action items and consider bringing in an outside consultant. Collaboration with a consulting firm won’t just keep your team members on track, it will also help you measure your business’ environmental impact.
To determine your company’s current impact, experienced consultants ask questions like:
- How does your organization account for durability, repairability, and recyclability?
- How does your business boost efficiency and eliminate waste across production plants and distribution centers?
With accountability and measurement systems in place, you have almost all the momentum you need to bring your corporate sustainability strategy to life.
5. Partner with sustainable businesses (like Flock Freight)
The last step: Choose partners with green business models and high standards for corporate social responsibility. (Work this idea into your sustainability strategy if you haven’t already!)
Picking partners with similar values is your final stop on the road to sustainability. The company supply chain is a viable starting point. Evaluate potential trucking providers for green freight transportation with questions like:
- Do you educate your employees on supply chain sustainability?
- Do you train your truck drivers on efficiency techniques?
- What’s the overall fuel efficiency of your fleet?
Asking these questions in your vetting process and adding your expectations for environmental performance to your contract criteria take relatively little effort and go a long way to forging a sustainable value chain.
Furthermore, a sustainability-focused logistics partner, like Flock Freight, will use the least possible amount of natural resources to ship your goods. Take the company’s carbon neutral FlockDirect shipping service, for example.
All FlockDirect freight moves via sustainable shared truckload service, which reduces each shipment’s emissions by up to 40%. To provide carbon neutral shipping, Flock Freight supplements the emissions savings of FlockDirect shipments with a carbon offset program, in partnership with Carbonfund.org.[Want more information about carbon neutral shipping? Learn more about FlockDirect here.]
FlockDirect is one of many new, technology-backed solutions in the freight space. Innovative use of technology (in addition to planet-friendly corporate values) is a clue that the logistics partner you’re vetting is invested in environmental impact.
To summarize, freight shipping has become one of the best areas to focus on as you expand corporate sustainability because new solutions (like carbon neutral FlockDirect):
- Save fuel via efficient transit and optimized routes
- Erase the environmental risks of remanufacturing (then reshipping) damaged goods
- Reverse the impact of tailpipe emissions with carbon offsets
- Preserve energy and raw materials
Connect with a like-minded logistics business to find out how you can lower your supply chain’s carbon footprint today.
Don’t just talk like a sustainable business; be one
With sustainability at the heart of your business model, employees will have the context they need to practice environmental responsibility every day. As a result, green ideas will come to life and generate positive impacts.
In conclusion, implement a sustainability game plan within your organization by:
- Getting senior management’s stamp of approval to go green
- Establishing an internal sustainability committee
- Thinking through sustainability goals
- Developing and implementing a sustainability strategy
- Choosing environmentally focused partners
Before you know it, you’ll have a business that reflects your sustainability value.