How can businesses contribute to sustainability?
The latest global scare of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses worldwide to force their employees to work remotely from home or their defined workspaces. Some of the biggest companies like Facebook, Shopify and Twitter have begun planning to transition their operations to a more virtual and accessible style.
Tobi Lutke, CEO of Shopify said “Office centricity is over. We’ve always had some people remote, but they used the internet as a bridge to the office. This will reverse now. The future of the office is to act as an on-ramp to the same digital workplace that you can access from your WFH setup.”
Mark Zuckerberg said that as many as 50% of Facebook’s employees would possibly be working remotely within the next 10 years.
Businesses that have more digital operations would incorporate more WFH strategies, however, even in the manufacturing businesses, steps are being taken towards promoting WFH such as Groupe PSA, who are manufacturers of the automobiles Peugeot, Citroën, Opel etc.
“Given the positive experience and efficient measures already taken in the context of the Covid-19 crisis, Groupe PSA has therefore decided to strengthen teleworking and to make it the benchmark for activities not directly related to production,” the company said.
A common trend that all these businesses work towards is improved working conditions, a better environment, inclusivity and satisfaction of employees and communities in the region and globally.
So, how would working from home contribute to sustainability when considering a business?
1. Developing sustainable strategies: Businesses that adopt shifts in their core operations toward sustainability has been growing over the pandemic. Such changes would not only benefit the environment by reducing the companies’ carbon footprint but also help with asset management, risk assessment and drive innovation and efficiency amongst employees and the organization. Sports brands Nike and Adidas have stepped up to the challenge of sustainability. Nike focuses on reducing waste & recycling old material into their product, whereas Adidas focuses on a greener supply chain, elimination of plastic bags and chemical dyes.
2. Proactivity with businesses and the government: In line with the SDG 17 in the UN SDGs (Sustainable development through global partnerships) has increased over the years. Collaborations and innovation between businesses, stakeholders and governments are becoming a solution for tackling systemic problems such as climate change, exploitation of natural resources, social inequalities etc. Nestle aims to work on almost all the aspects of the UN SDGs including water consumption, packaging and energy usage. They also work on reducing water consumption, protecting and preserving water resources through research with NGO’s like the WWF, and Zero Water Technology/ Recycled water.
3. Transparency: Transparency about the products or services is an important part of sustainability to business. The companies would share insight about their products, how they’re made, the sourcing and impacts that it may have on the community, environment and users. A study done by UL (Underwriters Laboratories) stated that ‘73% of customers are willing to pay more for a product that offers transparency in all its attributes.’
Organizational transparency can be done using reporting tools which are digitalized in the modern world. Carbon footprint, emissions, energy consumption and product quality and life cycle tracking are possible through multiple software which is now centralized for quicker evaluation quality and reporting.
4. Board engagement: Within the company, the board members would need to address the fact that sustainability is a major topic that influences the governments, environment and business possibilities. Achieving clarity on which stakeholders are a priority to the long term and sustainable goals of the company and forming the right board members (as a form of partnership rather than a unilateral board) are key factors from a sustainability standpoint. Decisions about the success of the company, management of human capital, resource and labour management, financial stability and consumer and product safety are some of the important points that a board meeting may comprise of, while also including the companies short and long term goals.
We can see that many of the world’s largest and well-known companies have been going on a sustainable path. It is the right choice for an organization that would keep in mind the environment, society and its financial gain. It is important to align the companies’ strategy with sustainability, to engage the board and all members of the organization to develop a forward-thinking culture.