Today's trends for tomorrow's business
Why Be More Sustainable?
May 3, 2019
Ideas on corporate culture
If you’re like many small business owners, you probably think you’ve got bigger fish to fry than environmental sustainability - like cash flow, finding new customers and growing.
But here’s the thing: you absolutely have to let go of that mindset if you want to succeed in today’s environmentally conscious society. Customers, partners, employees, investors and the market at large expect it of you, and if you do not adjust, you could very well perish before long.
As we acknowledge the passing of another Earth Day, it’s a good time to put some thought around how you build a cultural commitment to environmental sustainability. One that will feel authentic to everyone around you. A stance that will in no way, shape or form come off as fakery or “green washing.”
To get there, it’s important for everyone to be engaged.
This starts at the top with senior leadership, which must demonstrate to each and every employee that they view environmental sustainability as core to the company’s mission. There can be no exceptions. Employees will quickly recognize it when top execs are just giving lip service to the program.
At HP, for instance, our CEO Dion Weisler consistently communicates that we believe sustainable impact is fuel for our innovation and growth, creating a stronger and healthier company for the long term.
Every single employee at HP®, therefore, knows what’s expected of them. We know we must play our part in helping to develop and deliver environmentally sustainable products. We see this as so vital, in fact, that we also expect similar commitments to the planet from our partners and suppliers.
Sure, we’re a huge company. We don’t roll in quite the same way as a small or midsized business. But don’t think that means it’s any easier for us to spend time doing this. It isn’t. We have a vast global operation to oversee and assuring companywide commitment to sustainability is no small task.
You, as a small or medium business owner or operator, have a greater opportunity to make meaningful changes more quickly because you are nimble. You haven’t gone so far down the growth path that you can’t adjust to make sustainability part of who you are as a company.
Build sustainability into your DNA now.
Set expectations for all new hires that they’ll have to be on board in order to work for you. Establish training programs to build awareness around best sustainability practices and keep workers engaged with periodic community events that enable them to stay involved.
Now, in order to keep those workers (and the general public) engaged, you’ll need to be very clear about where you want them to focus. No business wins the sustainability race by shooting in too many directions.
That’s why it’s important to think through the one, two or three places you’d like to make a difference and then implement changes to achieve your goals. Maybe it’s water conservation or reducing your carbon footprint or minimizing how much waste your business contributes to nearby landfills.
Choose what is relevant to leadership, employees, your customers - and stay laser focused on it.
By the way, one other thing to consider as part of your culture commitment to environmental sustainability is remote work.
Now if you’re old school, you may prefer to keep your friends close and your employees closer. And that makes some sense since you’re a smaller company and need people available at all times.
But there are plenty of studies suggesting workplace productivity actually improves when people are allowed to work at the other end of a digital connection. And many young people, namely technically savvy millennials and Gen Zers, even choose employers based on flexible work arrangements.
So, you might want to consider remote work from a business standpoint. From a sustainability perspective, it’s also beneficial because it requires you to have less office space, which means you’re burning less electricity and putting fewer carbon emissions into the air. You’re also reducing the amount of carbon monoxide coming out of vehicles since your workers don’t have to be on the road as much.
No matter how busy you may be, it is critically important as a growing business to consider making environmental sustainability part of your corporate culture. Social consciousness is no longer just a nice-to-have; it’s a business necessity that could strongly influence your future success.