How Businesses Can Thrive in the Future of Sustainability

Image by Anders J on Unsplash

By Indiana Lee

This article provides an overview of the actions businesses can take today to reduce waste, cut down emissions, and minimize ecological harm. Making these proactive changes is crucial, as external stakeholders like consumers and governmental organizations want firms to become more sustainable in the years to come.

Sustainability is at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Today, around 86% of people believe in global warming, and 89% want to see more political action done about the issue. This reinforces the fact that folks want to see and support more climate-conscious businesses.

However, becoming authentically eco-friendly is harder than it looks. You can not simply repackage your wares in recyclable, green, boxes and claim to be truly sustainable. Instead, you must take a more robust approach to change your operations to minimize waste, reduce ecological damage, and cut down on carbon use.

Successfully transitioning to more sustainable methods can improve the efficiency and profitability of your business, too. Firms that successfully pitch themselves as eco-friendly can capture the loyal support of consumers and may even become eligible for tax credits and grants.

Embracing Innovation

Eco-tech is advancing at a rapid rate. Today, you can leverage devices like smart thermostats and solar panels to reduce your energy use and combat climate change. Taking advantage of the tech as your business grows is particularly important, as the carbon cost of expanding operations and opening new premises is high. Rather than ignoring the ecological impact of expansion, take advantage of advances in sustainable construction, which include:

  • Radiant Heating and Cooling: Radiant flooring systems use water-pushed-through tubes for better climate control. They take up less room than HVAC systems and are more eco-friendly than traditional systems.
  • Passive Solar: Solar panels will play a pivotal role in fighting climate change. However, you don’t necessarily need a roof full of PV panels to cut down emissions. Instead, install southward-facing windows and masonry that employs the principles of convection, conduction, and radiation to maintain a comfortable temperature.
  • Recycled Material: Sustainable materials like Ferrock require less energy to produce and keep waste out of landfills. Materials like Ferrock are largely recycled, too, meaning they may be more cost-effective.
  • Cool Roofs: Rising temperatures mean that cooling your premises is more difficult than ever before. Rather than increasing forced-air cooling, use cool roofs to reflect rays and dispel heat.

Expanding your business responsibly can help you thrive in the future of sustainable commerce. Consumers want to see that you are taking responsible steps to cut down on emissions, and building a low-impact factory or office is a clear indicator that you are willing to invest in eco-friendly initiatives. Just be sure to switch over to a clean energy supply, too, as this will help you create a framework for sustainable innovation at work.

Clean Energy

Opening a new building that is built from recycled materials and contains features like cool roofs is a great way to drum up public support for your company. However, if you want to make a serious difference, you need to adopt clean energy. Getting to net zero is crucial in the future of sustainability when consumers will demand more from your brand than PR points and recycled packaging.

Adopting clean energy can help you prepare for the future of clean energy. In the coming years, businesses should expect to see tighter emissions standards that will require investment in more eco-friendly alternatives like EV vehicles. Additionally, you should begin efforts to track and report your carbon use now, as the government is almost certain to mandate it for bigger businesses in the future.

Fortunately, you can also expect to find help in the form of incentives for switching to green energy. Many governments already offer federal solar credits for some firms, meaning you may enjoy credit when installing solar panels. For example, in Italy, folks who install solar panels benefit from fiscal-breaks to install solar panels. Using this to fund current projects is key, as the program is expected to scale down around 2033. By cashing in now, you will be in a far better position to thrive in the future when governments around the world will demand you run a more sustainable ship.

Circular Business Models

The circular business model has been a staple of the fashion industry, where big brands like Patagonia use recycled materials to bring new life to their current range. However, many predict that the circular model is about to change the way that other industries work, too. By embracing circular operations, you can benefit from:

  • Lower Costs: Recycling can decrease the cost of your raw materials required for input and cut down on fees that you pay for waste management.
  • Increased Efficiency: Born-circular businesses make full use of industrial assets like conveyor belts and warehouses. This improves asset utilization and inherently increases efficiency.
  • Product Use Extension: Getting more from your product range will be crucial in the future when raw materials will be more scarce. Circular businesses accept this reality and improve their ability to provide products that are more easily repaired, upgraded, and reused. This reduces waste and helps firms find new ways to turn a profit.

Embracing these changes can minimize waste, cut down carbon emissions, and appeal to climate-conscious consumers. Folks want to support brands that show their support for initiatives like recycling and will be more likely to opt for a business that has an active circular policy.

Pivoting towards a circular business model can help you revise your approach to suppliers. This can be transformative if you typically ignore the climate cost of upstream materials and do not track the impact of your external stakeholders. By switching towards a more circular model, you make it easier to assess your actual impact and can quickly identify areas for improvement within your firm. This can bolster your reporting efforts and make it easier to provide consumers with accurate, real-time data related to metrics like waste, carbon emissions, and environmental impact.

Cleaning Up Your Supply Chain

Pivoting towards more eco-friendly operations is great for your brand and will help you adapt to the future of sustainability. However, much of the energy use and waste associated with running your business actually occurs upstream in your supply chain. This means you must take supply chain management seriously if you want to minimize your impact and thrive in the new era of eco-friendly business operations.

You can take the initial steps to clean up your supply chain by auditing your current suppliers. To do this, you can either employ an external auditor or can require reports from your existing suppliers. These reports should include key details like carbon emissions, waste management metrics, and impact on the environment.

If you do decide to audit your suppliers yourself, be sure to use International Organization for Standardization (ISO) guidelines to measure metrics that matter. ISO metrics have been created to align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and feature over 200 technical committees, meaning you can find an ISO guideline that is relevant to your business and will support your long-term transition to more sustainable methods.

Conclusion

Sustainability is a hot topic in the business world — and for good reason. Consumers want to support sustainable initiatives and the government is ramping up efforts to track and monitor carbon use. Rather than reacting to the future of sustainability, firms can pivot towards more eco-friendly operations like reducing energy use and utilizing recycling. This will make your business more resilient and help you adapt to changing market pressures.

About the Author

Indiana LeeIndiana Lee is a writer, reader, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. An expert on business operations, leadership, marketing, and lifestyle. 

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