A corporate sustainability commitment can position your business competitively for consumers, investors and stakeholders. However, this work can be undermined when your sustainability commitment causes harm to the economy, our society or the environment. Here are the major ways corporate sustainability can go wrong.
A Siloed Approach
In a previous article, we touched on why sustainability silos are not beneficial to your organisation’s commitment to sustainability. Sustainability must be approached as a holistic commitment to the economy, our society and the environment. If one aspect of this is neglected, the entire commitment is undermined. For example, if your organisation has committed to planting a community garden to improve the health and well-being of people in your business’ local community, that is a positive step for social sustainability. However, if this garden uses harmful and toxic chemicals and causes and imbalance in the ecosystem by destroying local fauna and flora, then this is a step backwards for the environment. A commitment to sustainability needs to encompass the triple bottom line.
A Misunderstanding of Development Policy
A commitment to sustainability can also go wrong if there is a lack of understanding around development policy. A prime example of this is the continued use of the one-for-one donation model. In this model, for every item sold by the company, an item is donated to a person in need. While a one-for-one donation model does make a significant difference in people’s lives, it does not create sustainable change, can cause inequality in the local community and can lead to further issues down the track. A better donation model is through systemic policy development and working with the community to implement sustainable educational programs to make a lasting change. It goes back to the old saying of give someone a fish, feed them for a day; teach someone to fish, feed them for life.
An Undeveloped Strategy
An undeveloped sustainability strategy can lead to issues in corporate sustainability if not all aspects of the plan are thought through completely. For example, let’s imagine a business organises an outdoor fundraising event on a hot day for a local charity which calls on a number of volunteers. If this business does not provide adequate shade, food or water to their volunteers and the volunteer suffers a medical emergency such as heatstroke due to this, not only has someone’s life been put in danger, but it undermines what the business is trying to do in its fundraising efforts. All aspects of a sustainability strategy need to be thought through in their entirety.
A Silent Commitment
Sustainability strategies need to be marketed to be effective. The most important aspect to business owners is, of course, the better marketed their sustainability plan, the more monetary value they will see from their commitment. However, it goes deeper than the economic benefits. A more effectively marketed sustainability commitment will allow more ‘conscious consumers’ to make the decision to switch to your brand. More consumers with your brand will mean you are making more of an impact. Additionally, with the increased revenue, you will be able to scale-up your sustainability commitments to make them more impactful. If these sustainability commitments are then well-marketed, it will attract more customers and the cycle will continue. Sustainability strategies with more effective marketing behind them also allow consumers who are not currently considered ‘conscious consumers’ to be educated about the importance of sustainability.
As daunting as the list may seem to business owners and executives, this should not be a deterrent for engaging in sustainability. The benefits are incredible for all organisations.
To ensure you do not fall into any of these sustainability traps, contact us today to chat about your sustainability commitment and strategy in more detail!