Embed Sustainability Into Your Company’s DNA
By Brandon Heffernan | October 11, 2019
Millennials put their money where their beliefs are. Two out of three say they’re willing to pay higher prices for products and services from socially and environmentally conscious businesses. For obvious reasons, consumer trends like this catch the attention of business leaders. With these new perspectives and corresponding customer loyalty, corporate sustainability has become a strategic priority. In fact, 86% of companies on the S&P 500 Index published sustainability reports in 2018.
That said, integrating sustainability into the corporate mindset can be difficult for some businesses to maintain long-term. Many companies merely talk the talk, which is a missed opportunity.
Authenticity Is Critical
To be successful, corporate sustainability efforts require buy-in up and down the org chart and a strong focus on integrating policies and practices into the company’s culture and day-to-day operations. Patagonia might be the best model for this. In addition to committing 10% of profits to environmental causes since 1986, Patagonia encourages its customers to reduce unnecessary consumption of its own products by offering to repair damaged Patagonia gear for free and thereby reduce replacement purchases.
As counter-intuitive as this might sound for a business, Patagonia has quadrupled its revenues over the past ten years as their brand has become synonymous with corporate sustainability.
Granted, Patagonia sets a high bar that may not be realistic for many companies, but the point is to define a path that’s right for your company and stick to it. Doing so requires organizational commitment and employee engagement, and business leaders hold the key. Lead by example to inspire employees to want to be part of something that serves the triple bottom line. This is how sustainability becomes a permanent part of a company’s culture.
Here are three simple tips that can help you integrate sustainability into your company’s brand:
1. Show, don’t tell. If your company’s actions aren’t aligned with your messaging, people will notice and sustainability will be just a trendy word that people use to sound current.
For Pharos, pursuing B Corp certification is where it all came together. Being a Certified B Corp provides focus to our philosophy and broadens our sense of community. Meeting high standards for environmental and social responsibility also helps us to connect with businesses that share the same philosophy.
There are more than 2,600 Certified B Corps around the world and the number is growing rapidly. Some of the most popular consumer brands are now B Corps, including Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Seventh Generation, Method, Danone, Tom’s of Maine, and Athleta.
2. Communicate the benefits and lead by example. Inspired buy-in is critical: When people understand the impact of sustainability initiatives and the role they play in it, they’re usually eager to participate.
Because our software reduces waste and the consumption of resources related to office printing, we had a head start on the rigorous B Corp certification process. But going through this process prompted us to examine and change our everyday habits. For starters, we changed all the products we keep around the office, from the paper in our printers to the cleansers in our kitchen. At the time, recycling wasn’t offered at our offices so we made it happen ourselves and everyone got involved. When C-suite leaders are happy to drag the recycle bins outside for pickup, employees notice.
3. Invite people to join you. Visible support from leadership can inspire employees to translate your corporate values into their daily lives, at work and beyond.
For example, the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk gives its employees 10 paid days off per year to volunteer. Facilitating employee involvement in community-based initiatives sends a powerful public message about your company’s values.
Succeeding at sustainability comes down to effective leadership. Figure out how best to tell your story, show employees and customers why the initiative is important, and lead the way forward. You might be surprised by how effective and inspiring these simple actions can be.