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25 November 2022

Are there different types of sustainability strategies?

Each company can implement different types of sustainability strategies depending on its specific situation.

When talking about reducing your company’s ecological and social impact, you can choose among different types of sustainability strategies. Let’s find out more.

What is sustainability?

The term 'sustainability' is used a lot these days, but what does it actually mean? In short, it refers to meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

There are three key pillars of sustainability:

  • environmental: taking care of the planet we live on;
  • social: ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy and fulfilling life;
  • economic: managing resources in a way that meets social and environmental needs while also providing economic benefits.

To be truly sustainable, a business must take all three of these pillars into account.

What is a sustainability strategy?

A sustainability strategy is a long-term plan that sets out how a business can become more sustainable. It takes into account the three key pillars above and defines the actions that the business can take to improve its sustainability.

Sustainability strategies: main categories

3 main sustainability strategies

1 - Changes in corporate governance

Corporate governance is the system by which a company is controlled and directed. It includes things like internal rules and procedures, as well as the relationships between the different parts of the company (e.g. shareholders, directors, employees).

Making changes to corporate governance can be a way for a company to make itself more sustainable. This can involve anything from setting up a separate sustainability department to appointing a board-level sustainability champion. For example, a company might change its vision and mission statements, adding references to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) criteria. Or it might change the way it relates to its shareholders, so that shareholder value is not the only thing that drives decision-making.

2 - Employee development

This can involve anything from providing training on sustainable practices to setting up employee volunteer programs.

Employee development can have a number of benefits for a company, including:

  • reducing environmental impact as employees learn about and implement sustainable practices;
  • improving social impact as employees become more aware of social issues and how they can help to address them;
  • reducing costs as employees learn how to work more efficiently and waste less.
     

3 - Technological innovation

Sustainable innovations can help a company in different ways. They could involve anything from developing new products that have a lower environmental impact to implementing new production processes that use less energy or water and produce less waste.

Examples of sustainable technology are:

  • renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind power;
  • green building technologies that make use of sustainable materials and construction methods;
  • water conservation technologies such as greywater systems;
  • waste recycling technologies such as anaerobic digestion.
  • AI and machine learning technologies that can help to optimize production processes;
  • connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) which can help to improve resource efficiency.

Technological innovation can be a cost-effective way for a company to improve its sustainability. Moreover, it can give the company a competitive advantage, as sustainable technologies are often in high demand from consumers and investors. It also can help to create new jobs and business opportunities.

However, innovations can be expensive, and it may not always be possible for smaller businesses to invest in it. Luckily, there are often government incentives available for companies that do invest in sustainable technologies. In addition, the long-term benefits of reducing environmental impact and improving social responsibility can make technological innovation a worthwhile investment.

4 - Supply chain management

Supply chain management is the process of planning, implementing, and controlling the operations of a company's supply chain. A company's supply chain includes all the different stages involved in producing and delivering a product or service, from raw materials to the finished product.

Making changes to the way a company manages its supply chain can be a way to make it more sustainable. For example, a company might choose to source its raw materials from suppliers that have a good environmental record. Or it might develop new transportation methods that are more environmentally friendly. It can also implement some solution to improve transparency and traceability.

Supply chain management can be a complex and challenging process. However, there are many software applications and other tools available to help companies to do so more effectively.

5 - Corporate social responsibility

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a term used to describe the way in which a company takes into account the social and environmental impact of its activities. There are many different ways for a company to be socially responsible. Some companies choose to focus on environmental sustainability, while others focus on social issues such as poverty or education. Others take a more holistic approach, integrating sustainability into all aspects of their business.

Many companies choose to implement CSR programs because they believe it is the right thing to do. Others see CSR as a way to improve their reputation and build trust with stakeholders. Still, others see it as a way to create new business opportunities.

However, CSR can also be complex and challenging, and it may not always be possible for a company to implement all the different types of program

Benefits of the different types of sustainability strategies

There are many benefits to implementing a sustainability strategy, including:

1) Reduced environmental impact: By reducing your environmental impact, you can help to protect the planet for future generations.

2) Reduced social impact: By reducing your social impact, you can help to improve the lives of the people who are affected by your business.

3) Improved bottom line: By reducing your environmental and social impact, you can also reduce your costs, which will improve your bottom line.

4) Enhanced reputation: By becoming more sustainable, you can improve your company's image and build trust with your customers, suppliers and employees.

5) Increased employee engagement: Employees are more engaged when they feel that their company is having a positive impact.

6) Attraction of new customers: More and more consumers are looking to buy from companies that are sustainable and responsible. Just to give you an idea, 81% of consumers in the UK prefer to buy from sustainable sellers.

7) Access to new markets: Many companies are now looking to do business with sustainable partners.

8) Reduced risk: A sustainable business is a more resilient business.

9) Future-proofing: By implementing a sustainability strategy, you can ensure that your business is ready for the challenges of the future.

The best way to find the right strategy for your business is to start by assessing your company’s environmental and social impact. Once you've done that, you can start to look at the different types of sustainability strategies and see which one would be the best fit for you.