Sustainability in business examples (with how-to guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 22 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses are initiating eco-friendly policies by encouraging environmentally conscious workplaces and organisational cultures. Managers may evaluate how their operations affect environmental, economic and social concerns when making business decisions to facilitate long-term sustainability in the workplace. Understanding sustainability in business, its examples, how it affects employment and how to promote it within companies can help you determine if working for a sustainable business makes an ideal work environment for you. In this article, we define sustainability in business, outline sustainability in business examples, discover how sustainability leads to potential job openings and discuss how companies can promote sustainability.

What is sustainability in business?

Sustainability in business refers to how companies manage and coordinate their social, environmental and financial concerns and demands to ensure ongoing, responsible and ethical success. By practising sustainability, businesses positively impact the environment without depleting natural resources to promote a healthy and long-term ecological balance. Sustainability also establishes conditions that allow humans and nature to coexist; thus, it can enable present and future generations to meet their social and economic needs. When businesses become sustainable, they demonstrate their interest and commitment to positive environmental change.

Related: 10 examples of sustainability in the workplace (plus tips)

Sustainability in business examples

Here are some examples of sustainability in business:

Encouraging the use of sustainable transport

Sustainable transport refers to transportation means that minimise their environmental and social impact. Companies may evaluate sustainability in transportation by considering the type of vehicles they use and their energy source. Businesses may encourage their employees to opt for greener means of transport to encourage sustainability, such as trains rather than planes, or promote the use of fuels that produce fewer CO2 emissions to reduce their CO2 footprint. They might also limit travel by allowing their employees to work remotely. Businesses can also use alternative meeting platforms, such as video conferencing tools, instead of holding physical meetings.

Implementing a recycling programme

Establishing a recycling programme may be one way to increase consciousness around a company's sustainability. Companies can implement and encourage sustainability in the workplace by educating employees on proper waste disposal. They can post clear signs at waste disposal stations to help employees distinguish what belongs in the recycling, compost and rubbish bins. Companies can also donate obsolete computer parts and other items to local organisations that support electronic recycling.

Encouraging a paperless workplace

Companies can minimise or replace paper and ink usage with eco-friendly alternatives. For example, to encourage sustainability and a paperless workplace, a company may use computers, cloud computing and storage technologies to become more collaborative and efficient without paper and physical storage. Businesses can also invest in digital HR and payroll tools to manage their workforce and enforce and encourage sustainability.

Related: 20 jobs that help the environment (with duties and salaries)

Conserving energy in the workplace

Conserving energy refers to organisational efforts to reduce energy consumption. Managers may encourage energy conservation by urging their employees to unplug electronic devices when they're out of the office or when they're not in use. This helps companies conserve energy resources and reduce their electricity bills. Managers can create an energy-efficiency policy that they communicate to employees to help them minimise energy usage at their desks and around the office. Companies can also encourage their employees to use power and electronic devices sparingly in the office.

Supporting eco-friendly businesses

Businesses may collaborate with companies with similar sustainability goals and practices. To establish a more environmentally conscious workplace, companies may choose to only conduct business with green-friendly brands and companies. They may investigate potential vendors to learn more about their sustainability efforts and determine if they correspond with their own mission and objectives in terms of environmental effects.

Reusing to reduce waste

Businesses may enforce the reuse of products to reduce waste in the work environment. A company can encourage employees to utilise reusable coffee mugs and water bottles to minimise environmental pollution. They can also promote reusing products in the office by providing corporate swag like travel mugs and stainless steel water bottles.

Related: How to become an environmental consultant (with salary info)

How can sustainability in business lead to potential job openings?

Below are some of the ways in which sustainability in business can lead to potential job openings:

1. Employees are proud of the company's commitment to sustainability

A business's efforts towards promoting sustainability can make it an ideal work environment. Employees can be proud to serve a company that appreciates sustainability measures. Companies that adopt sustainability practices that exceed industry standards can distinguish themselves from their competitors to put themselves in an advantageous position during recruitment. They may also have brand goodwill that attracts high-quality employees.

Related: Creative recruiting: definition and how to implement it

2. People can use sustainability to tie certain organisational ideals to their own beliefs

An applicant's feelings about an organisation may be important in determining their choice of place of employment. People often choose to work for companies that share their values. A company's values that drive specific sustainability measures, such as environmental protection and conservation, may attract applicants. Demonstrating how sustainability incorporates daily work activities, reward systems, training programmes, operational procedures and company goals may influence applicants and help in a company's hiring process.

Related: Creating core values in organisations: a guide with examples

3. Sustainability implies that a corporation cares about its people

To some job applicants, sustainability programmes may imply that if a company truly cares about the well-being of society, it is likely to treat its employees well. A company that demonstrates sustainability values may attempt to provide meaningful and fulfilling experiences by highlighting employee-driven sustainability projects. Reinforcing the idea that the company cares about society and the environment and linking it to employee policies may lead to potential job openings.

Related: 5 benefits of corporate social responsibility with examples

How to promote sustainability in a business

Here are some ways businesses can promote sustainability:

1. Connect to the need for sustainability

If a company wishes to become more sustainable, the first step might be to develop a personal connection to protecting the environment. Business executives and company employees can research how much environmental harm exists and how the company contributes to it, which may encourage the company to work towards sustainability. Sustainable improvements happen when a company and its employees feel that they have a personal responsibility to protect and conserve the environment in which the business operates.

2. Make sustainability a top priority

For sustainability to become an integral part of a company's operations, business leaders typically educate themselves and their employees about its meaning, implementation and importance in the workplace. Reading publications on the subject, going to sustainability-focused conferences and joining industry coalitions dedicated to achieving global goals may help promote sustainability. To promote sustainability with conviction, companies typically believe that climate change, unethical resource usage and pollution are serious issues they can help solve.

Related: What are the three pillars of corporate sustainability?

3. Innovate and rethink business plans

Companies that aim to promote sustainability within the business might rethink their business plans and become more innovative. For example, board members and corporate leaders who focus on sustainability may review their initial business execution goals and adopt more sustainable methods. The business might market products and services that encourage customers to make long-term decisions and use sustainable development goals to guide leadership development strategies.

4. Create holistic and long-term sustainability goals

Businesses can conduct research and develop attainable goals to promote sustainability. Their sustainability goals can revolutionise their business, have a meaningful impact and be measurable and attainable. For example, business leaders may start their sustainability journey by deciding to reduce their carbon footprint or eliminate contamination throughout their supply chain.

Related: What are business goals and how to create them (with steps)

5. Maintain accountability and strive for continuous improvement

Businesses can be transparent and offer in-depth information about where they acquire products and the sustainability of their materials. They can publish information on their websites about their labour policies, how they make products and the areas they seek to improve. Being accountable may mean that businesses continually look for new methods to reduce their carbon footprint. Transparency can also make companies more responsible and help build consumer trust.

6. Conduct research

Business leaders may understand that sustainability initiatives are more complex and may warrant more effort. Conducting research may be an ideal way of promoting sustainability within businesses. Business leaders can use research to understand the impact their business operations have on the environment. These investigations may help them determine the state of the community, the human and environmental effects of their entire supply chain and the life cycle of their resources.

Related: UK's green companies (sustainable business examples)

7. Accept competitors as partners

When one major player in a field declares that sustainability is a priority, it can inspire others in that area to do so as well. Sustainable firms enjoy this form of competition not only because it benefits the environment but also because it may encourage them to maintain their sustainability innovations. Company leaders may seek help from competitors and pursue partnerships with other companies to produce breakthroughs that would be out of reach for a company on its own.

8. Choose environmentally friendly packaging and labelling

Companies produce consumer products that may require labelling and packaging. The packaging materials may end up in landfills after their use or the unpacking of a product. Manufacturers can reduce the waste created by their labels and packaging by choosing more sustainable materials. Biodegradable packaging and labelling can fulfil the function intended for customers without contributing to landfill mass.

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