Regardless of what industry you’re in, I’m sure you’ve heard all about sustainability by now. Depending on how you look at this six syllable word, you might dread, or be excited about what it means. Sustainability can create challenges as a vendor to offer competitive prices, while at the same time using environmentally safer (and more expensive) materials. But it can be rewarding as a customer, when you have a reputation of using these cleaner products, and by then showcasing your efforts to improve society – sustainability is modern day marketing.
How often do we see corporations, both large and small, place sustainability at the top of their agenda? There are many benefits from eliminating production waste on the environment – so much so that some corporations are even cheating the system to “pass” the tests. Volkswagen was caught with their diesel-emissions scandal, but they weren’t the first company to do such a thing – and surly won’t be the last.
So why are corporations focusing so much on sustainability? We’ve seen that some groups are even attempting to dupe the system from this new concept. Why go through all the trouble?
It all boils down to financial incentives for improved sustainability.
While there are many different variations and types of incentives – corporations will generally reward their suppliers who demonstrate improvement in problem areas. By improving economic, environmental, and social areas (also known as the three pillars of sustainability) suppliers can certainly be recognized for their effort.
The big push for sustainability focuses on improving the world for generations to come.
There was a time when Multinational Corporations would purchase a good or service at a low cost – not necessarily considering how it was made, or who it was made buy. Labor laws will continue to get more strict as the spotlight shines on corporations who look to third world countries to outsource their services. And there will be harsh penalties for companies who harm the environment as their goods are being produced.
We know that the market will always be changing – and some consumers in the retail industry are becoming more concerned on how their clothing is being made. Recent events show that in the modern era, many labor laws across the world are still being ignored.
The “traditional” view of mass producing goods at low costs can, and will still exist. But new questions will continue to emerge that will look to address ethical business issues. Who is making these products and how are they making them? Are they environmentally safe to manufacture?
Sustainability is here to stay – and the theory actually goes beyond environmental, economic, and social areas.
Sustainability is about efficiency.
Have you ever asked how your company can become more efficient and sustainable? There is no simple answer – but I can tell you it goes beyond eliminating product waste and improving the environment (as discussed above). Your employees can also be the ones who are responsible for creating inefficiencies within a business. And if you work in a small business setting, this fact couldn’t be truer.
What are the crucial roles in your business? The ones you can’t live without?
I understand title stills holds importance for individuals looking to climb the corporate ladder. But when you work in a small business where employees are required to wear many hats and complete diverse tasks, your title can certainly hold you back. Making an effort to do more will only make your value increase in the company. As a manager or supervisor, you know one of the worst things an employee can say is that’s not my job.
I have many things that aren’t my job, but when I see a problem it needs to be addressed and fixed quickly. When you get employees thinking in this unselfish manner, you have the ability to sort out the wasteful employees, from the ones who are efficient.
Sustainability is about filling your business with employees who have a broad set of skills.
If you are hiking in the woods, would you rather have a screwdriver, or a Swiss army knife? When you have an extensive list of skills in your arsenal, you will carry more value and responsibility.
Of course we still need specialists –doctors, lawyers, and professors, etc. What I’m referring to relates more to how many tasks your employees can handle.
But it doesn’t stop with the employees – you can improve the process of your business to create a sustainable workflow. I know that in manufacturing, there are always areas of improvement waiting to be found. But you and I both know wasted time and energy exist in all business sectors. These problems can range from marketing failures, hiring unqualified candidates, or even failure to enforce rules.
You might be thinking your newest hire is working hard at his desk when he’s actually texting on his smartphone. Distractions surround us each day at work – and it’s up to you as a manager or supervisor to enforce these rules. If not, you risk losing valuable time and money.
Companies with high turnover rates can build on this problem of inefficiency. Hiring and firing employee’s costs time for training purposes, and money from upper level staff members to train these people. Maybe it’s not actually the failure of the new employees, but the failures of the training system as a whole…
By examining your process from another perspective, you can fix issues to improve sustainability.
Sustainability comes down to building and planning for the future. Whether you work for a small business, or a major multinational corporation, you can improve on your current methods of sustainability and map out business plans.
No one wants to lose customers, limit working hours, or even initiate layoffs – and these things can happen when companies are lacking in sustainability. You need to improve for the future by monitoring and enforcing the process. Make sure your sustainability goals are achieved.
This brings me to my final point – enforcement.
Most companies fail to achieve their sustainability goals, because they are not enforcing the crucial tasks that need to be taken. In order to maximize efficiency, your business must keep track of people, procedures, any anything else related to the overall sustainability goals of your business.
Maybe you want to create a group to monitor and oversee the sustainability process, or you’re thinking about developing a list of dates that will help keep your process on track. Whatever the answer may be, just know that enforcing sustainability is up to you – and if sustainability isn’t a priority, your company’s growth will be minor.