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What is Corporate Sustainability?

Today, business leaders in every industry aren’t waiting for governments to rise to the climate challenge. With the support of forward-thinking boards, innovative CEOs, and small businesses taking on big goals, corporate sustainability pledges will make or break the world’s future.

But what does corporate sustainability look like?

Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability

Any business can create a sustainability pledge. In most cases, organizations divide their goals into four categories. These categories are the foundation of a program designed to make the world a better place, build trust between the organization and its customers, and push the entire industry forward in addressing climate and social issues.

Human Sustainability

Creating a better world includes improving the lives of all stakeholders, not just stockholders. Corporations can improve the human experience by investing in education, healthcare, and both the living and working conditions of their suppliers, customers, and employees. This involves drawing a big circle around the people who make your business possible, at every link in the supply chain and in the communities that your company serves.

Social Sustainability

Businesses can improve the institutional health of their partners and communities by investing in non-profit organizations related to their industry. These relationships should focus on strengthening ties and inviting buy-in from both direct industry contributors and those influenced and affected by industry changes.

Social sustainability should also include taking an active role in driving legislation that improves how the industry serves people and the environment.

Economic Sustainability

If human sustainability focuses on the more conceptual idea of improving quality of life, economic sustainability is more specifically monetary. This effort often focuses on investing in the company to grow and improve profitability in the long term. One way to think of economic sustainability is investing in the business in such as way that profits sustain the business and those who depend on it for generations to come.

Environmental Sustainability

Perhaps the most ambitious of all, environmental goals balance considerations of the other tenants of corporate sustainability with the needs of the climate. This often includes a focus on reducing carbon emissions and reducing externalities that may harm or consume natural resources. The challenge of commercial environmentalism is that many elements include both upfront substantial investment (i.e. potentially purchasing modern energy-efficient equipment or rooftop solar panels) and potential higher input costs when using more sustainable materials. For publicly traded companies, these investments may not be as attractive to shareholders.

Create Your Sustainability Program

Make the commitment to creating a sustainability program or pledge by inviting all interested and invested parties to engage in a constructive conversation about your company’s identity, goals, and image.

  1. Make the pledge. Set down your corporate sustainability goals on paper and revisit the goals quarterly. Sustainability is never a finished project, nor will it simply take care of itself.
  2. Create a core purpose. Examine why your brand exists, who supports your business and why, and how your sustainability plan meets both the needs of your business and your customers. To put it simply, ask how you can make sustainability a core part of what your business does every single day.
  3. Buy-in. From the CEO to the newest hire, communicate what sustainability looks like and hold everyone accountable. Don’t make your sustainability a nice C-suite checklist. Make it priority to bring all levels of employees to the table to shape, enforce, and advocate for your sustainability programs.
  4. Corporate sustainability reporting. Create a way to effectively communicate your sustainability goals and evaluate how successful you were in achieving them. Share this information consistently internally, with your board, and with shareholders. (One excellent example of reporting comes from Amazon.)

Make Corporate Sustainability a Core Part of Your Company’s Future

Our energy consulting and corporate sustainability consulting experts can help you shape your environmental goals and bring sustainability programs to life. Whether you’re looking to create a company-wide green initiative for the first time or looking for guidance on how to do more, contact Keen Technical Solutions today.