Why brands must invest in sustainability strategies
Stakeholders are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of business and have heightened expectations of companies’ behaviour. That’s why your brand needs to implement efficient sustainability strategies.
Sustainability strategies help to prioritise challenges and actions, giving a plan to follow in the long term. The goal is to make sustainability an integral part of your corporate processes, operations, products, and services. It is something that concerns all phases of a business: from the supply chain to production, from management to marketing.
Obviously, reducing your company’s environmental impact must not have a negative effect on the economic aspects of the company. Conversely, good sustainability strategies always take into account resilience and commercial success. Indeed, converting to environmental sustainability can turn into a competitive advantage, especially in terms of customer loyalty and public funding.
An overview of sustainability strategies
There are several sustainability strategies, but we can group them into three main categories:
- those that focus on the product or service;
- those aimed at the company’s operations and processes;
- those that concern the entire supply chain.
Product or service-oriented strategies
They concern the composition of a product or service. For example, using recycled or recyclable materials, less water or energy in production processes, etc.
Another possibility is to develop a new product or service that meets sustainability objectives: an eco-friendly car, a waste reduction solution, etc.
Operations and process-oriented strategies
They aim to make the company’s operations more efficient and less polluting. For example, by reducing waste, optimising energy use, or promoting employee well-being. All these actions have a positive impact not only on the environment but also on the company’s image and, as a result, its turnover.
Supply chain-oriented strategies
The environmental sustainability of a company also depends on the sustainability of its supply chain. For this reason, it is important to have sustainability strategies that take into account the suppliers and partners. For example, by working with eco-friendly suppliers, auditing the sustainability of partners, etc.
How to implement sustainability strategies?
Just as there is no single type of strategy, there is also no single method to develop and implement it. In any case, by evaluating the most common methodologies, we can recognise some essential steps. Here they are:
1) Incorporate sustainability into your corporate identity
Before developing a strategy, a company should review its Mission, Vision, and Values, and align them with the concept of sustainability. In fact, an inconsistency would make it difficult to decide what to do and, above all, make the company less credible in the eyes of the stakeholders. Therefore, the reason why a company exists and what it wants to achieve must include an element of sustainability.
2) Choose what matters to your company
Sustainability is a broad concept that includes many different things. For some companies it means reducing CO2 emissions, for others, it means protecting biodiversity. After all, no company would ever be able to tackle sustainability as a whole! Therefore, the second step to building a good strategy is to identify which issue will truly concern your company and stakeholders. If there is more than one, they must be prioritised.
The choice does not depend only on an ideological preference (a company whose founder loves animals and therefore is committed to the protection of local fauna) or linked to production (a textile company that wants to turn to renewable energy), but also on the real ability to face the challenge (a small factory cannot face modernisation like a big industry).
3) Define your targets
Take a look at the issues relevant to your company and extrapolate clear and measurable objectives.
What final result does your company want to achieve? Do you want to improve your energy efficiency? Do you want to reduce your waste production? Ok, but how, how much, and by when?
If you don't have a precise direction, you can't achieve anything. On the contrary, having targets helps you keep track of progress and allows stakeholders to do the same.
In this regard, sustainability strategies should always report the KPIs to evaluate the effects of your actions.
4) Analyse and select the activities to carry on
Considering the previous points, your company can verify whether activities and processes are in line or not with the goal of sustainability.
It's a ruthless decision-making process, but it has to be done.
This step is just an evaluation of continuing, resizing, stopping, or starting activities. If and how to do it is the next step that requires further hierarchisation based on the importance of individual activities.
The implementation phase must already be considered during the planning of the strategy. There are several project management solutions that can help your business turn theory to practice. The choice depends on the previous points and the resources (primarily economic) available.
6) Involve the stakeholders
A fundamental element both in the development and in the implementation of sustainability strategies is the involvement of stakeholders. In particular, of employees. In fact, it is on them that the greatest effects of changes within the company will fall. For this, sustainability must become a central element of the corporate culture.
Inform them about the company's decisions, goals, and how they will be achieved. Educate them about the chosen issue and, if possible, involve them in outside activities that show them why it matters.
But to ensure the sustainability of strategies over time, you must also involve customers and partners. For example, by communicating about sustainability objectives and initiatives or by offering sustainable products and services.