At Global Bright Futures we believe that sustainability should be embedded into business.
We make sustainability ‘simple, accessible and right for business’.
But what do we mean by that?
What is sustainability?
The word sustainability is used to encompass many things.
Some think it refers to ethical trade practices, some to factory conditions and audits, philanthropic projects and some to only recognised standards in commodities, while others think of modern slavery and child labour, gender equality, inclusion and equal pay levels. Then there is pre-consumer and post-consumer waste, closed loop recycling, as well as the environmentally harmful effects of processes and water use, biodiversity, hazardous chemicals, land and soil erosion and…
Ok!! I’ll STOP right there, but you get the picture!
For us here at Global Bright Futures, the UN definition (from the Brundtland Report, ‘Our Common Future’) is clear and concise:-
“Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.
Today, many exciting new businesses and business models are emerging, created with a specific core agenda encompassing many of the things listed above. These businesses are set up from the outset to do business in a different way, and as e-tail has transformed retail, they are able to have direct contact and engagement with sometimes a more discerning consumer, but also pressure groups and media.
There has not been such a truly liberating way of selling products to consumers for more than a generation. I say a generation, but many of the historic and great brand names have been around for sometimes a lot longer than that, and were set up in very different times, when they didn’t have to factor in sustainability principles.
The great couturier and designers of the 20th Century, some of whom drifted into making clothes, have become multimillion corporations. The large brand retailers that have celebrated over 100 or more years of trading, set up on market stalls, selling door to door, mail order and grew by word of mouth.
Even the almost accidental successes of brand names that emerged during the 60 & 70’s started as a little shop for fun and making goods on the kitchen table, or started making face creams for friends and are now solid stock market businesses. Would these businesses have started up if they had to think through all the responsibilities that are now a requirement to consider beyond producing and selling their products?
A new era of responsibility and reputation has emerged, and with it a new breed of consumer and employee.
It is clear is that those historic businesses are now very different from what they were originally set up to be, and have evolved and transformed into businesses in line with changing times. What made them successful in the past and last 100 years won’t make them last the next 100 unless they evolve in a sustainable way.
Many are now employing experienced and knowledgeable people, teams and consultancies, to help them make the necessary transformations towards becoming a business that is considered by consumers and employees as more sustainable and responsible, and importantly, less harmful to both planet and people.
In turn, these businesses are transforming to make their own business future be more sustainable. A key part of this is measuring the milestones and targets that they have set out, as this is part of their pledge or commitment to making change and business transformation.
The reputation of their business is at stake, so business values and ethics are now an additional implied measurement throughout their business, and in all that they do.
As new entrepreneurial businesses are set up today, building a strategic plan for sustainability into the business model is a great opportunity to illustrate business ethics and values. What makes you tick?However, what do you do if your business has been trading for generations?
Sustainability in business
This is where the need comes in to define what sustainability in business means.
For us, it is about cultivating kindness and caring for the environment and the people who work in the industries we work with. It’s about understanding the impact of your products and activities on the environment and communities and addressing those. Using the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can help to define your aims in specific areas.
In fact, by being more sustainable in your business model and the way you conduct your business, your ethics and values become core to your business, so all of the things listed at the beginning of the article that you may consider cover being sustainable, are all a part of this.
Doing some or many of these is part of the journey to becoming more sustainable. The key is identifying what material issues your business faces, defining and clearly setting out what actions you are taking in your business and absolutely vital is that you can measure what impact, positive and negative, this change is having.
Without measurement, it can be effort wasted as there is no information to base future decisions from or know what, and if, any impact these efforts are having on people, planet and profit. It will not give you the results you need to take you to the next stage of your journey.
Joining an organisation as a member might be part of the journey, but in isolation, if it is not making any transformation to the way you are doing business , it is not making your business model more sustainable for the long-term. It certainly is a part of the process towards change but not the complete solution.
Embedding sustainability throughout your organisation has to come from the top.
So ‘sustainability’ can indeed be complex, and becoming more sustainable in your business is a journey and an evolution, as nothing is truly sustainable for ever! The principle of your own business being more sustainable though can be quite simple. The desire to investigate and make some investment into your future is required.
The action must come from you and those in your business.