Sustainability is a growing concern across the world, and the markets are responding. But is it really worthwhile to make changes to your business model to create a values-driven company?
Yes, says Roy Spencer of Iskra Consulting Ltd . And what’s more, becoming a business led by values can make your business more resilient – something that we’ve all seen is important during the last 18 months as businesses have weathered the Covid-19 pandemic.
One Person’s Trash…
A good place to start, says Roy, is by looking at waste streams. Every business generates waste, whatever their industry. But those at the forefront of the sustainable practices are increasingly using two strategies to reduce their impact on the planet.
Firstly, they are trying to reduce the amount of waste produced. And secondly, they are examining waste streams to find sustainable opportunities, either for themselves or in partnership with other businesses.
Roy tells me about an interesting development in this field: that of rare earth elements which are in high demand in tech industries such as mobile phones and permanent magnets used in wind turbine manufacture. High concentrations are relatively scarce across the world, and historically 90% have been sourced from China. However, savvy sustainable business leaders have found a source much closer to home: waste streams from fertiliser production. Sourcing rare earth elements such as lanthanides from a factory waste stream makes the supply less at risk from political uncertainty and reduces demand for mineral extraction. It also reduces the waste stream of a non-competing industry, making the two businesses effectively become complementary.
Businesses who become more aware of these benefits can increase the resilience of their supply chain, whilst reducing their carbon footprint AND demonstrating their sustainable practices to the consumer.
See the Wood, not Just the Trees
Roy’s holistic approach to business allows him to look at the bigger picture, taking all costs and benefits into account. “Businesses need to be leading the way in sustainable practices”, he tells me. But what’s the incentive for them? Especially when some sustainable practices may come at an increased cost? We must remember that we are currently not paying for the cost of carbon on many of the products that we are importing from lower cost countries.
Being as sustainable as possible becomes a feature of your business. There’s increasing pressure from society: customers today expect businesses to step up or else they will take their money elsewhere. It will become increasingly difficult to compete.
Any business that doesn’t take the leap, that doesn’t make that investment now – and tell their audience what they’re doing – will not only pay the price of lost sales in the near future, but also when their children and grandchildren suffer as the climate changes. They could also miss out on the opportunity to source cheaper materials from a more resilient supply chain.
Values are changing, and eventually legislation will force businesses into sustainable practices. Forward-thinking company leaders will start their journey towards sustainability now to futureproof both their success and the environment.