Sustainability is buzzing right now in the workplace, especially as employees put more pressure on their leaders to create an environmentally conscious culture.
Recent findings hint that 45% of people between 18 and 25 and 44% of respondents between 26 and 38 said they’d chosen their job and employers based on their personal ethics. Gen Zs, or people between 18 and 25, identified climate change as their main concern, while Millennials identified it as their third-highest concern, after disease prevention, healthcare, and unemployment.
Sustainability officers claim a sustainably focused culture isn’t just about how businesses manage their footprint. It’s also important for brands and businesses to focus on how they innovate and ensure that employees are empowered and encouraged to think and build with a climate-conscious approach.
Today’s corporations should no longer choose between doing better in business and doing good in the world. In fact, if there’s something that the latest environmental and social issues teach us, it’s that making positive changes in the world helps to create value in business.
The thing is, brands are mandated and focused on economic survival and growth, normally measured by profit. But for those organisations that aren’t profit-orientated, there is still a need for economic visibility. One way of attaining financial visibility is by focusing on sustainable values that generate financial benefits. This can only be possible only if organisations shift toward sustainable practises such as wasting less energy and material (and money), generating investor value and customer loyalty, developing a sound, integrated value chain, and improving employee engagement.
The economy is people-dependent, and in order to grow, it requires a healthy and stable society. In an age when information is shared almost instantly, business supply chains and their effects on the local areas, no matter where in the world, are constantly being evaluated for social licence.
Integrating Environmental and Social Impact Objectives Your Business Strategy
Normally, businesses develop sustainability projects with a focus on either social OR environmental outcomes. They were looking to increase diversity across their value chains, lower CO2 emissions, or improve water quality.
But as perspectives shift towards systems thinking, we’ve seen that sustainability objectives often intersect, and a well-planned initiative can enormously impact multiple goals.
- For instance, investing in regenerative agriculture not only protects local environments and soil diversity; it can also have a great impact on developing healthier diets and empowering farmers.
- In 2021, for instance, Unilever launched its first Regenerative Agriculture program to protect waterways, regenerate soil, improve biodiversity farmer livelihoods and develop climate solutions.
Brands are expected to increasingly generate initiatives that address multiple interlinked impact areas. In fact, we’ve anticipated an increase in strategies that integrate some subset of gender equality, reduced inequalities, decent work, conscientious consumption, production, and more.
Greater Focus on Addressing Scope 3 Emissions
The quest for net-zero is all the buzz right now: A 2021 study found that at least 20 percent of the world’s largest public organisations now have net-zero commitments. However, nothing remains unchecked. Sustainability offices are questioning what, exactly, businesses are counting (what they ignore) – and how and when they plan to meet their goals.
Brands that intend to instil sustainable values should expect critics to gain new teeth in 2022 as new regulations and reporting requirements emerge. For instance, they could follow the UK- Net Zero Strategy plan to become the first G-20 country to demand full disclosure from companies about their climate-related risks, financial information, and opportunities.
However, these regulations are meant to push brands to account for their scope 3 emissions – or the massive indirect emissions generated along the value chain. We see that with Walmart and how they are handling their scope 3 by expanding supply chain finance to smaller suppliers to help them in reducing their own carbon footprint.
Adhere to Net Positive Thinking
First things first, what does net positive mean?
Like all interesting ideas, its essence is simple. Companies have impacts on the environment and society. Some are negative, some positive. For a business to be net positive, the latter needs to compensate, a lot. In other words: society and the natural world should be better off with brands than without them.
Any sustainable endeavour needs its champions, and net positive boasts a crowd of devoted supporters, including Coca-Cola and Ikea. While they’re all well-intended, nobody knows if they’re on the right track. For those planning to get net positive, the track is tighter than it might be. Coca-Cola, for example, has boldly gone net positive – but only on water. Given that some 200,000 metric tons of mismanaged plastic waste, i.e., dumped or burned, is created by Coca-Cola every year, they should at least adhere to more sound solutions for the recycling of waste.
Crowdsourcing Innovative Sustainability Solutions
Open innovation allows brands to crowdsource solutions – often through a competition or prize – by joining global investors in addressing specific environmental challenges. Brands with the brightest and most environmentally conscious ideas and business models receive funding to pilot or scale their solutions.
This approach enables businesses to connect with local and regional NGOs and small companies with solutions adapted to the local context.
For example, Pioneer Foods and PepsiCo joined forces to co-create and scale impactful solutions for South Africa’s food system.
While sustainability has become a top-of-mind priority for brands, we’re expecting more companies to announce measures to reduce their CO2 footprints and consider the ways their sustainable endeavours impact their equity, diversity, and inclusion policies.