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Why sustainability is increasingly important for businesses

Posted on: 26/04/2021

In business terms, sustainability refers to conducting business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole, and considers the impact that businesses have on both the environment and society.

A growing number of businesses are looking at incorporating sustainability into their business strategy, with 62% of businesses considering sustainability strategy necessary for competitive advantage.

Expectations on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) are increasing and so businesses need to recognise the need to implement a sustainable strategy. In the UK, almost one fifth of greenhouse gas emissions come from businesses, however, consumers are increasingly looking to buy from more sustainable brands. Unilever reported that 33% of consumers are choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good.

For many SMEs, implementing sustainable practices into their business strategy may seem overwhelming and costly, but by making small changes, SMEs can see a great improvement to their environmental and social impact.

Ways businesses can become more sustainable:

  1. Reduce waste

This can go beyond recycling paper and printer cartridges. Considerations can be made for recycling food waste, a reduction in printing by providing digital alternatives, and by implementing schemes such as a cycle to work or carpool scheme.

  1. Source more environmentally friendly suppliers

Businesses can source suppliers that have green credentials and offer a more environmentally friendly alternative, invest in sustainable materials to include in manufacturing processes or switch to a renewable energy supplier to power facilities.

  1. Encourage socially responsible working practices

Sustainability in business goes beyond environmental impacts to include social factors. Businesses can commit to diverse hiring practices, implement a volunteer scheme for employees and give back to the local community.

  1. Benefits of remote working

The pandemic has brought remote working into the mainstream. It is estimated that the increasing number of people working from home in the UK could save more than three million tonnes of carbon a year, due to the reduction in electricity used and an individual reduction in carbon footprint with employees no longer commuting every day. The continuation of remote working could not only save businesses money in terms of office space, but it could also reduce the overall environmental impact.

Whilst some of these initiatives require investment in the short term, implementing a sustainable business model can lead to long-term benefits. Companies with high Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) ratings consistently outperform in the market and have improved financial performance.

Innovate UK EDGE Innovation & Growth Specialist, Fernando Centeno, notes that “SMEs engaging in environmental and social business models can attract sustainability-concerned consumers, improve resource efficiency in internal operations, reduce production costs, access new markets, enhance innovation capacity and engage effectively with the supply chain and other stakeholders. In addition, SMEs adopting sustainability can effectively retain and attract talent due to increased employee engagement.

“SMEs transitioning to sustainable business models will likely reap both short-term and long-term benefits, becoming more competitive and resilient in the long run.”

At Exemplas, we are experts in providing SMEs with the tools and advice they need in order to excel and grow as a business. Our team of advisers stay up to date with the latest techniques and strategies to help SMEs develop and upskill. Advisory support is at the heart of what we do, and our knowledge becomes an SME’s advantage within their industry. We deliver several key public sector contracts, including Innovate UK EDGE in the East of England and the Hertfordshire Growth Hub. These projects are designed to aid businesses with developing strategies for growth, boost productivity and innovation.

Find out more about the work we do to support SMEs

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