When it comes to sustainability, some brands are way ahead of the game. Others, however, are certainly falling behind. There is so much potential for brands who embrace a more sustainable outlook to both appeal to a wider audience and benefit from cost-saving in the long run. But in order to successfully achieve this, brands must be bold enough to move away from traditional operation practices and adopt new methods.
Let’s explore the common approach to sustainability within a business. Usually, everything stems from reviewing the current processes that are in place. Areas of improvement are flagged, and changes are made, normally in the form of swapping out environmentally-unfriendly old equipment with new, eco-considerate ones. But this basic approach of swapping out doesn’t achieve anywhere near the full scope of potential when it comes to sustainability.
It’s one thing to change actions. Telling your employees to put the waste in a new, separate bin if it is made of one material and not another is easy. But it doesn’t change the mindset of the person; the waste item is still waste, it’s just going in a different box now.
But what if you made a greater change? Instead of viewing waste as a disposable problem for one container or another to be collected, encourage the view that the material is not waste at all. It isn’t without value to the company — it won’t be used by the employee, but it is still a valuable resource that the company has produced and that could be used.
It sounds like a simple message but getting it across to everyone within one company would be difficult, let alone for that message to spread throughout an entire industry.
The first step is to take down one wall of doubt and realise that actually, people won’t be as difficult to sway as you may think. People do, for the most part, want to do the right thing. Now more than ever, people are inherently aware of their impact on the environment and want to reduce it. Most accept that it is a group effort too!
The bigger wall to overcome is long-term versus short-term. Often, short term goals can conflict with long-term ones; they are, by their very nature, more immediate and therefore seem more achievable. There’s a sense of response and feedback far quicker with short-term goals. In order for long-term goals to be stuck to, a form of monitoring, measuring, and reward along the way is needed in order to maintain enthusiasm to reach that distant goal.
Action also needs to be taken to ensure it is indeed a joint, company-wide effort. Silo working, that is, groups within the company who are reluctant to share information with others in the same company, can prove a problem. It also encourages the damaging thought process of shifted responsibility, for example, teams leaving the entire responsibility on the sustainability team and ignoring the need to change their own attitudes towards sustainability for the process to work. Changing this attitude helps engrain a consistent focus on sustainability among all employees.
A good place to start this process is via procurement. Here, we will look at a company’s waste management process, whether it’s small-scale bin collection or a frequent need to hire a skip, as an example:
When reviewing a company’s old waste management process, the focus often revolves around simple cost-saving while achieving a like-for-like service. This causes a heavy focus on price per lift and the frequency of collection that can be offered by a third party. But this does not help a company achieve its long-term sustainability goals; even if the service obtained is well-documented, it is still the same old process, just better recorded! Instead, success is better found is moving away from the old process and accepting that, while it worked for the company then, it no longer supports the need for sustainability now. A new process needs to be created revolving around your new sustainability goals. In doing so, you’ll have a new process in place that is more flexible, more creative, and far more efficient for your workplace and its current goals. It’s a case of working smarter, not harder.
Another facet to consider in order to strengthen a company’s sustainable processes is transparency. A published statement, declared timescales, and defined targets are far more convincing than a sweeping statement of commitment to the cause.
Goals are goals, not threats — businesses should not keep these to themselves out of fear of putting themselves on any sort of chopping block. If the goals cannot be reached, be open as to why this is. You may have found an external or internal factor that prevented a goal being met. If so, shining a light on this can encourage change across the board. In turn, this leads to improvement and innovation, which is only a good thing!
You also have an option to seek advice for change management from the likes of Impact International, who provide expert training that would help you develop the confidents to lead your company through big changes. The biggest challenge is certainly bringing everyone within the company on the same page as quickly as possible to ensure it’s a smooth process.