Let’s be honest, Episode 11: Businesses and sustainability
Let’s be honest is a Food Circle’s project with the aim to open up the conversation about the challenges when being or becoming a member of the SC (Sustainability Club). This series will shine a light on the different approaches to make life more sustainable, as well as the step-backs and difficulties that arise. Being more kind and understanding, instead of critical, will hopefully help to encourage us to try, instead of giving up when facing a step-back or failure. This is made possible thanks to Sapient, the mother company of Food Circle, which every year offers internships to students from all around the world creating a uniquely multicultural environment.
Let’s celebrate the achievements and give room for honesty and struggles!
Having an enterprise nowadays comes along with a large variety of responsibilities for the owners. Entering the market requires hard work and determination on the entrepreneurs’ behalf. It is also of paramount importance that the right resources are obtained: labour, time, capital, etc. “The problem is that it isn’t hard to start a business, but it’s very hard to make it work.”(Matthews, 2019)
Given all these challenges that entrepreneurs have to overcome while climbing the ladder of success, governments still encourage them to also shift towards an eco-friendly approach in their business. That adds up more responsibilities to their schedules.Is it, though, convoluted to minimize the negative impact your business could have on the environment? Does it consume a significant amount of the firm’s resources? The purpose of this article is to try and provide answers to this question and present the challenges of implementing eco-friendly solutions for your business.
I find it relevant, to begin with, the definition of sustainability in a business context to be able to analyze the concept further.
“In business, sustainability refers to doing business without negatively impacting the environment, community, or society as a whole.” (Spiliakos, 2018)
That is equivalent to aiming to make a positive impact on the environment and society in which your business operates. With their focus on both increasing the revenues and being eco-friendly, businesses need to take into consideration a large variety of factors and solutions.
The first challenge - time
Even though it might be quite hard to explain and understand, time is familiar to everyone. According to Gallup's Dec. 2-6 Lifestyle poll, around 48% of the Americans subject to an experiment consider that they do not have enough time to fulfill their desires. That means that time is a limited resource and the lack of it could represent an impediment. Especially for the ones who need to get more tasks done.
When it comes to businesses, time is considered even more precious. Nevertheless, does the desire to protect the environment pose a threat to it?
The answer is, usually, yes. In order to shift towards a more sustainable business, efforts need to be done and decisions to be made. Choosing the best alternatives for a business to require planning, budgeting and controlling for the results. Especially at the beginning, it is fair to assume that time is one of the essential resources to be invested. It is not possible to minimize the usage of natural resources and emissions of waste, for example in a very short time. Everything takes time to plan in advance.
Nevertheless, once the business embraces the concept of sustainability, it will be less time consuming to identify solutions. All it takes is bringing sustainability among the core values of the business.
The second challenge – Employees and their habits.
According to Ian Hutchinson, a Life & Work engagement strategist, “Employee engagement is an investment we make for the privilege of staying in business.” (Hutchinson, n.d.) That means that the labour force has a say in case the change needs to be done. That is mainly because whenever a change needs to be made, resistance from the employees’ side could be an impediment. Whether the resistance has an organisational or personal source, there are many ways to overcome it.
Keeping employees motivated by incentives or making them understand the necessity of change could be two solutions. It is sometimes the fact that employees are not aware of the reasoning behind the changes that generate resistance. Individuals have habits and personal beliefs and the change should begin with the workforce.
The third challenge – Money
One of the most evident questions that a business has when they try to “go green” is if they can afford it. The answer depends on many factors.
It has been discussed in previous articles that some eco-friendly products are more expensive than their regular alternatives. However, when it comes to businesses, sustainability could end up being a good investment. The beauty of protecting-the-environment measures is that they could actually cut the costs instead of increasing them. That if research is done thoroughly and such solutions are implemented.
Take for example the initiative that some restaurants have of not offering straws. This reduces the amount of plastic discharged in the environment and also saves the business some money. At the same time, becoming eco-friendly might lead to increased revenues for some businesses. That since customers might be more incentivised to buy something if they know they are protecting the environment at the same time.
Still, sometimes it might appear that “going green” is a roller coaster of endless spendings.
In conclusion, we can be honest with ourselves and say that implementing sustainable solutions is not all milk and honey. Nevertheless, going green could prove to be a valuable investment for the business.
Author and Editor: Anda Codreanu, Henry Mitchell
Hutchinson, a. (n.d.).
Matthews, D. (2019, May 3). What makes Starting your own Business so hard? Medium. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://medium.com/swlh/what-makes-starting-your-own-business-so-hard-c387bd37be8
Spiliakos, A. (2018, October 10). What Is Sustainability in Business? | HBS Online. HBS Online. Retrieved March 15, 2022, from https://online.hbs.edu/blog/post/what-is-sustainability-in-business