THE onset of catastrophic events has always kept the world at a standstill at one point or another. This was particularly the case when the dreadful coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic hit. Economic growth slowed while companies grappled with the underlying financial impacts of this event. When the health crisis wreaked havoc, it left businesses rethinking their operational and leadership strategies. Amid all the repercussions of the pandemic and other catastrophic worldwide events, a new concept is gradually becoming the new business reality - sustainability.
We have often heard of the buzz phrase sustainable business practice. It is not a new concept and has formed part of business strategies for several years now. The United States Environmental Protection Agency defined sustainability as a social duty and moral responsibility of corporations to preserve environmental conditions for future generations.
Looking at it from the point of view of consumers, an International Business Machines report showed that almost 70 percent of consumers in America and Canada look for brands that are sustainable and products that are eco-friendly. The same report showed that 69 percent of environmentally conscious consumers are more than willing to buy these eco-friendly and recycled products. Equally surprising is the fact that more consumers now prefer to patronize brands that mirror their perceived personal beliefs.
It's a similar scenario in the Philippines. Based on data and insights provider Kantar's Who Cares, Who Does report released early this year, the majority (75 percent) of Filipino consumers have their eye on eco-friendly products and prefer brands that put a premium on reducing harmful impacts on the environment. Despite this positive outlook, results of Kantar's report showed that many have second thoughts in buying eco-friendly brands as these are more expensive alternatives. Needless to say, environmental issues like climate change have driven consumers to shift their gaze to more sustainable, environment-friendly products.
These figures allow companies to get a glimpse of what the future of business looks like. The pandemic will definitely not be the last major global challenge to hit us. Many other environment-related issues will most likely prop up. Hence, it is essential that as the world changes, businesses, too, must step up their game. While sustainability blueprints vary from one organization to the other, there are some tried-and-tested measures that businesses can adapt to start or develop their sustainable business practices.
Employ CSR initiatives
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has been an integral part of many businesses' strategic sustainability measures. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization referred to it as one where corporate management infuses social and environmental considerations in their overall operations. By integrating CSR measures, a business can balance its corporate interests on one hand and its social duties on the other. It can help them map out, through insights, the impact of their activities to the environment. By plotting CSR reports, companies get to take a hard look at their activities and its effects while at the same time, show the world that they are proponents of a sustainable global economy.
Cut down on carbon footprint
Many businesses are doing it. In fact, Amazon Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos announced last year that they are looking at making their company carbon-neutral by 2040. Doing this is not an easy feat. To achieve this, a company needs to reduce or offset their greenhouse gas emissions. In reducing carbon footprint, the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by companies when they conduct their activities, management must implement policies and comply with existing statutory and regulatory requirements regarding various environmental matters. As an initial step, measuring your business' carbon footprint is key, supplemented by initiatives like reducing road travel of employees and being more involved in environmental projects.
When in doubt, remember the three Rs
Reduce, reuse, recycle. This is probably still the best measure that businesses can employ as part of their sustainable corporate strategy. Think of innovative ways to get employees invested in reducing consumption of plastic materials and other essential office items like paper. For some companies, using recycled paper for some of their documents and reducing the use of printed files mean making small but effective contributions to address a host of environmental problems. Putting up a recycling program is also a sure-fire way to get employees more involved in the company's shift to green policies.
Cutting down on energy consumption does not have to constitute a big part of capital expenditure. Things as simple as changing lighting in offices and using energy efficient lights can do the trick. Using good old natural lighting, when possible and adequate, is also a good idea.
To thrive in the future means that businesses must be more aware of global issues so that they can make informed decisions, more so now as we navigate through the new normal. This is important, not just to drive company growth, but also to contribute to improving the quality of life and to address ever-evolving human needs. Adopting sustainability measures is not merely a business add-on. It is part of our moral and social duty to protect the environment for future generations.
As published in The Manila Times, dated 21 July 2021