And that’s not the only reason your company needs a sustainability policy. You need a sustainability policy because it’s the right thing to do.
After two weeks of tentative negotiations, last year's COP26 resulted in
a global agreement to limit the rise in worldwide temperatures to 1.5C.
This year delegates will meet in Cairo to ramp up the implementation of plans to invest in renewable energy and other initiatives to reduce global carbon emissions. As calls for more action reach a fever pitch, businesses are coming under scrutiny to ramp up their environmental sustainability efforts.
Sustainability policies offer companies a unique opportunity to declare both internally and externally the strategies they are implementing to protect the economic and environmental viability of their business. Embedding these policies into the leadership team ensures that key decisions are always made with sustainability principles in mind.
They also present a chance to demonstrate the organization's values which, as we will see, can have interesting repercussions for both client and candidate acquisitions.
There are multiple examples of small businesses that have benefitted from taking a strong stance on sustainability. We interviewed the inspiring Elephant Gin, who started their company with a clear eco-friendly ethos and have been going from strength to strength ever since.
As concern around the environment heats up, businesses and society at large realize that the effects of climate change are creeping closer. The economic and social implications cannot be understated, but sustainability isn't about chastising or dwelling on the past. It's about focusing on solutions and an opportunity to build a stronger, more viable future.
Developing a sustainability policy gives small businesses the chance to identify issues and make a clear plan to tackle them. Having these checks in place reassures investors and allows companies to share their eco-conscious values with other key stakeholders.
Failure to get on board with sustainability could be catastrophic. Studies have shown that
60% of Generation Z will choose to make their purchases from green businessesover competitors who offer little concern for their carbon footprint. What's more, most candidates (65%) are more likely to accept a role from an organization whose company policies include clear actions on sustainability.
By crafting and sticking to a sustainability policy, small businesses can set themselves apart and gain a competitive advantage. As the public is increasingly drawn to eco-friendly enterprises making your policy part of your marketing strategy can reap massive rewards for your business's bottom line and employee retention.
A final important incentive is an increase in regulation around sustainable business practices. As governments worldwide look for new ways to ramp up their responses to climate change, it may not belong till organizations of all sizes face legal and ethical commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
Small business owners who get ahead with their sustainability plans now could benefit financially and gain better PR by acting before regulatory obligations.
While environmental policies vary in length, it is better to keep things short and sweet. Around 2 pages are easier to digest and can be supplemented by additional documentation, for example, human rights or health and safety policies. Below we share a tried and tested template for drafting a meaningful and comprehensive sustainability policy.
- A systematic analysis of your environmental issues, highlighting key industry concerns and championing a preventative approach with measures to solve the roots of these problems rather than mitigate impacts downstream.
- Address how you will check if any partnerships also commit to similar sustainability values.
- Answer any concerns for animal welfare if applicable.
- Make provisions to enforce anti-corruption, anti-fraud and other aspects of good governance that protect society at large.
- Ensuring human rights are respected across all aspects of the business. This can cover various topics, from anti-trafficking assurances to occupational health and safety.
- A commitment to listening to and addressing the concerns of any parties adversely affected by the organization or those acting on your behalf.
Depending on the nature of your business, you will need to address different factors when it comes to sustainability. If you are a retailer, you will need to audit your entire supply chain, from materials and waste reduction to the packaging and delivery service you use.
On the other hand, software or service-based businesses might need to focus more on energy consumption and make moves to ensure a greener supply. If undertaking a sustainability audit of your business seems daunting, don't worry. There are professional services that can help.
Detailing measurable targets can win customer and stakeholder confidence, but be sure to provide discussion around how you will report performance. Include a timeline of when and where you intend to update interested parties on your progress.
Business partners, including suppliers, also need to receive a copy, and any future partnerships will also need to commit to your policy's contents. Training relevant staff to have these conversations and audit potential suppliers or contractors will be key to successful implementation.
Making your environmental policy publically available is another great way to ensure it reaches all relevant stakeholders and that your business' stance on sustainability is well known.