In an uncertain, volatile and fast-changing world, there’s no such thing as business as usual. You could even say that if you do what you’ve always done, you might not get as much as you’ve always got.

Economic and political uncertainty, and environmental and societal pressures mean there’s never been a better time to put sustainability at the heart of your business. Sustainability is about so much more than being eco-friendly. It’s about taking a whole-picture approach to how you operate, balancing economic, social and environmental factors and taking account of risk, resilience and longer term impacts, right across your business.

As such, it’s not something that’s a one-off, to be ticked off your ‘to do’ list and forgotten about, but rather a shift in mindset that will compel you to challenge the status quo, learn to ask better questions and find yourself motivated to constantly be improving.

Adopting sustainable business practices takes in a wide range of areas, from efficient and cost-effective use of your workspace and utilities, to looking after your workforce, and procurement and resourcing that takes into account, say, supply chain security.

As it’s something that’s constantly evolving, particularly on the regulatory front, a DIY approach can prove difficult to navigate. This is where an external specialist is invaluable in being able to offer guidance on the practicalities that are most appropriate, cost-effective and beneficial for your business.

So what can you hope to gain from putting sustainability centre-stage?

Apart from a sense of control where you know you’re giving yourself the best chance of being able to weather the unforseen and capitalise on any opportunities that present themselves, the benefits are many and far-reaching. They are, broadly-speaking:

1. Cost Savings

A sustainability audit will identify what you already do well and pinpoint areas for improvement. Installing energy saving equipment, controlling water usage, addressing productivity and making the most of your workspace, can quickly translate into significant overhead savings.

2. Regulatory compliance

If you’re doing business with the public sector you’ll already be familiar with having to submit documented sustainability credentials. This will soon extend to large organisations in the private sector. Compliance is not just restricted to the company submitting the tender but also takes in anyone in their supply chains, all of which have to have a sustainability policies in place.

With the international regulatory landscape moving inexorably towards mandatory submissions on carbon footprint, it’s a good time to be thinking about the sort of accreditations your business may need. These will future-proof your business in order to be not just compliant, but also able to access valuable business development opportunities.

3. Commercial

Adhering to sustainable practices provides businesses with a purpose beyond being the profit imperative, and a personality your people can really get behind. This can become a differentiator, something you can use to boost your PR and marketing efforts, develop new business, better attract and retain customers, and enhance your reputation as a great place to work!

A version of this article appeared in the December 2017 edition of Business Cornwall magazine.

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