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Restructure for sustainability in 10 steps

20 july 2020, 14:11 / Publications

The history of science shows us over and over again that, in order for any species to survive, it needs to be able to adapt to changing environments. The same, of course goes for business. For me, in essence, this is what sustainable business means – how we adapt and position ourselves in order to survive when resources are becoming scarcer by the day and consumers more demanding by the minute. When we think about sustainability, most of us think in terms of green energy or animal welfare. And yet, it is so much more than that. Why not try to dissect each and every part of your supply chain – primary, secondary and tertiary and start asking the tough questions;

WHAT IS IT AND WHY DO WE NEED IT?

  1. Start by questioning your current ideas about economy and business – are they even still relevant? Are they future fit?
  2. What are the threats to your business which you cannot control? Availability of resources, climate change and rising demand (urbanisation and population growth). Consumers, regulators and shareholders are changing behaviour and demanding more from your business – safety and security, fair trade, carbon neutral, etc. etc.
  3. The world is in a cycle of fast and constant change, irrespective of your profitability. Remember: the Darwinian adage; it is not the strongest of the species that survive, but those most adaptable to change. Do not become a dinosaur.
  4. Sustainability can mean that, in your business context, you continue doing the same things, but change the way you do them OR it could mean you do something totally different.

10 STEPS TO DEVELOP A CULTURE OF SUSTAINABILITY:

  1. Embrace change – be open to new experiences, change is the one thing you can rely on.
  2. Intimately understand what your business (and key stakeholder) needs are – what external resources / people are you dependent on?
  3. Develop a deep understanding of your environmental risks – what risks could arise within your environment AND what risk do you pose to the environment?
  4. Hire and develop your key staff – for agility, for resilience, a propensity for knowledge and an ability to operate in a for agility, for resilience, a propensity for knowledge and an ability to operate in a climate of uncertainty.
  5. Build relationships – and open dialogue with key stakeholders, this is your temperature gauge to the world around you.
  6. Use less – i.e. become more energy and water efficient, less reliant on resources.
  7. Use differently – i.e. substitute scarce resources for abundant or recycled materials.
  8. Prioritise safety – of your people, community and your environment.
  9. Support fair labour – all the way down and up your supply chain.
  10. In short; show the world that you care, starting at home.

Written by Leonie Pentz, VP Sustainability AIMS International