Nathan Gray, Head of Sustainability for Helistrat, looks at some practical ways that businesses can work to better embed sustainability into their organisation and realise the commercial environmental benefits it has to offer.
Think Brains not Bins
The most common ‘mistake’ we see when working with organisations wanting to improve their resource efficiency and develop a more sustainable business, is a failure to address the all-important issue of hearts and minds. We have to recognise that simply changing the containers we use to collect waste or altering the collections frequency does little more than scratch the surface of what is possible.
Changing the way your employees think about waste is, without a doubt, a difficult thing to do but also very powerful. One simple action that can be taken is to start to change the language we use. If we can get people to think not about waste, but about resources that have both a commercial and environmental value, it can be a small but effective step.
Communicate Company Wide
Our audience has changed: it is no longer limited to ‘Heads of Sustainability’ or ‘Environmental Managers’ but now includes stakeholders from a broad spectrum of responsibility, including purchasing, business development, account management and supply chain. This diversification clearly presents a challenge in terms of communication but this is far outweighed by a larger, more engaged audience who recognise the commercial and environmental opportunity.
Aligned to the point above, the carrot for change must not be exclusively for those with an environmental remit to chase. By including sustainability objectives into every role we can increase awareness and change behaviour to help us work towards a common goal. It will also help the understanding that sustainability is, indeed, a cross functional responsibility and should start to influence the way decisions are made.
Be Clear on Value
This is a difficult one. Value is measured in more than pounds and pence. As a business, you can drive value for all your stakeholders be they shareholders, customers, suppliers, employees or local communities through developing a more sustainable business. Building this dimension to your brand fosters loyalty and goodwill and can help a business find new and engaging ways to differentiate and grow.
Look to the Future
Short term goals hinder our ability to influence mid to long term change and output. We need to find ways to circumvent ‘business as usual’ and empower people to think longer term and find ways to measure and evaluate performance over longer periods of time.
Where to Start
We find that procurement is often a highly effective place to start. Procurement is naturally a very digital discipline, focusing on (quite rightly) on pounds and pence. Often, when the time does come for change, the process ends up being a cost saving exercise based on a like-for-like service. The resultant focus on price per lift and collection frequency makes it hard to implement any of the company’s sustainability objectives.
Businesses prepared to tear up what has gone before and start by defining what they want to achieve are without a doubt the most successful in bringing about change. This enables the creation of a more flexible, creative and efficient service, which is output focuses and aligned to the corporate objectives.
Don’t be Afraid
Be open and transparent about their intention. This means publishing a meaningful statement with targets and timescales, not just a vague positioning statement designed to satisfy shareholders. Businesses should not be scared to publish their goals, that is, after all, what they are. If they cannot be met, be honest about why. If there were external factors that could have enabled these goals to be reached or that impeded the progress, use this as a way to raise awareness and to try and bring about change.