Three ways to implement better business sustainability practices, starting today

- June 7, 2022 4 MIN READ

Labor’s landslide win in the election last month has highlighted the importance of sustainability to voters, as the number one policy issue this year. Chris Dahl, director of Sales and Growth at Pin Payments, highlights three key ways small businesses can build better sustainability practices into their operations.

The newly appointed Albanese Government has made substantial promises regarding the preservation and protection of the environment, the reduction of emissions and tightening of climate and energy policies. However, Labor has yet to outline any roadmap regarding business responsibilities and accountability surrounding climate change.

All businesses, from small and medium-sized enterprises to larger corporations, are now under immense scrutiny when it comes to their operations, supply chain transparency and internal policies. Given businesses are one of the largest contributors to climate change, with just 100 companies responsible for 71 per cent of global emissions, it’s time for leaders to take a closer look at their corporate environmental responsibilities.

However, with little government guidance, how can time-poor and resource-short small business leaders ensure they’re operating with sustainability in mind?

Understanding your corporate responsibility

Whether you’re at the start of your business sustainability journey or need to revisit your policies, here are a few areas to consider surrounding your operations.

Before implementing any business-wide change, it’s important that you or your appointed sustainability business head actually understand what your corporate responsibility is, in line with international instruments and climate policies, and which policies are relevant.

The primary United Nations treaty surrounding climate change is The Paris Agreement, which was ratified by 196 parties at COP 21 on 4 November 2016. The agreement outlines the importance of a reduction in global warming to below two degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial levels, and calls on States to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The Paris Agreement emphasises the importance of greater environmental sustainability from both a government and business perspective.

Likewise, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is another vital treaty for businesses, which was developed to combat ‘dangerous human interference with the climate system’. The UNFCCC outlines the need for further research into the science of climate change, continued meetings and future negotiations, policy agreements to mitigate climate change, and the promotion of greater sustainable practices.

Both treaties highlight the increased scrutiny towards inaction and actions which contribute towards climate change. With climate change litigation at an all-time high globally, businesses should familiarise themselves with these treaties and look to implement positive climate mitigation initiatives where possible.

3 first steps to better business sustainability practices

The words 'sustainability', 'people', 'planet' and 'profit' written on chalkboard

1. Conduct due diligence with regards to sustainability and business operations

As a first step, it’s a good idea to review your existing operations, contracts, engagements and internal and external policies in line with the Paris Agreement and climate change mitigation.

Assigning a dedicated resource or creating a team responsible for your business sustainability might be a more cohesive and efficient way to do this. You may wish to consider certification such as B Corp or take part in programs with organisations such as Repurpose, Trace or ClimatePartner. While there is no one-size fits all solution, these programs provide a framework on how to  create a more sustainable business. You will be asked to audit your operations, including your supply chain, to examine where you might be able to change things.

Businesses will suffer from a governmental and customer standpoint, if they do not begin to take sustainability seriously in line with their practices. Once you’ve conducted your environmental due diligence, you’ll have a clearer understanding of where and how you need to change things. However, the challenging part comes with implementing change – this is where a dedicated team or individual will be helpful.

While some businesses may consider the ‘cost’ of implementing sustainable practices to be too high, in reality, these businesses will be penalised through loss of customers and opportunities or through government or legal action, in the future. Implementing better strategies now will actually avoid costly future problems, whilst also assisting with the mitigation of climate change.

2. Develop internal disaster management plans now

As we’ve seen with COVID-19, the world can catastrophically change on a dime. As the climate continues to worsen, we’re also seeing increased environmental disasters that impact businesses and people. The recent floods across New South Wales and Queensland are a clear example of this, where people’s lives and businesses were turned upside down in a matter of weeks.

With that in mind, business leaders should consider implementing disaster management plans which detail how supply chains will be managed, how staff will be supported through crises, how communications will be maintained with customers, and how the business will keep running.

Whilst it’s unpleasant to think of, climate change is set to drastically increase climate-related disasters, so preparing for potential disasters is vital as a business. Having strong internal policies and management plans will protect your staff and your business in the long run.

3. Support green and low carbon opportunities

It’s encouraging to see so much growth across the markets of climate tech and business, which is a US $87.5 billion dollar industry. Whilst climate change can present as a doom and gloom topic, there is also a great deal of positive news surrounding businesses’ commitments to its mitigation, and new technologies to assist with this.

As business leaders, we can support this change by making better investments and more considered decisions in line with the environment.

Look for opportunities where your business can support renewable energy, energy-efficient transport, green buildings, climate tech and ethical industrial production. These markets are set to grow significantly between now and 2030 and present an opportunity for your business to operate more sustainably, whilst supporting new and emerging climate markets.

Every step, however small, will help on a grander business scale to ensure you’re contributing to a better future. Whilst mitigation is the first step for businesses, opportunities may also come from reviewing your operations which support business growth and a more sustainable future.

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Now read this:

Why sustainability and climate change are every small business’ responsibility in 2022

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