Against the overwhelming backdrop of extreme weather events all over the world, business sustainability might seem like a drop in the ocean, but embedding sustainable business practices is now, more than ever, a critical part of tackling the climate and nature emergency.
Understanding how to make your business more sustainable in a way that helps to drive meaningful change – at the speed and scale required –
can be overwhelming and complex. Each business is unique and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution to reduce our impacts on climate and nature. To help navigate these challenges, we’ve partnered with WWF to highlight some core principles to help put sustainability at the heart of your business, and help restore and protect the planet we all love.
To understand how you can make your business more sustainable, you first need to know how you’re performing. Find out the difference between scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions and take an honest look at your impact - it’s vital businesses have a complete start-to-finish picture of your business impacts, right through the value chain. To make sure you’re focusing on the areas that really count, join the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi) – a partnership between CDP, the UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute and WWF.
The SBTi highlights emissions and other environmental benchmarks, helps you set and commit to achievable short, medium and long-term targets, and validates your sustainability plans, so you can be confident your goals are measurable and meaningful.
Nature loss is one of the biggest threats to our global economy. According to the World Economic Forum, “$44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services and, as a result, exposed to risks from nature loss.”
The nature crisis is inseparable from the climate emergency, so make sure you understand the risks and look for opportunities to include actions that support biodiversity in your businesses’ sustainability goals. Check out SBTN, a new initiative, focused on setting Science Based Targets for Nature.
Your business may not have obvious direct links with nature or raw materials on the surface but dig a little deeper and you’ll see just how connected you really are. The human influence of supply chains and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources can have hugely negative impacts our planet, for example driving deforestation, pollution, water stress and fuelling global warming. Your printer paper, and even how many times you flush the toilet can all impact nature.
Its vital businesses of all sizes take steps to reduce impacts on the planet’s finite natural resources, like sticking to sustainable sourcing protocols and reducing waste. Proactively working toward credible environment certifications, for example the ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certification, is a great step to take.
Setting SBTi-validated targets is only half the battle. To achieve the goals, it’s critical your whole business gets behind them.
If your senior people treat it as a tick-box exercise and aren’t seen to ‘walk the talk’, the rest of your organisation will soon question your commitment. Get visible buy-in from the top down to ensure engagement throughout the business.
And harness the power of your people. Your employees are at the sharp end of your business with insights and suggestions that can hugely improve the way you work. Tap into their invaluable knowledge by empowering and encouraging them to suggest ways to meet your sustainability goals.
Remember that sustainability is never ‘once and done’. Continually monitor your progress and tweak your approach and take action if you’re falling short. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. We’re all in this together, so use external, expert support wherever you can, such as the SBti and SBTn’s range of tools and resources.
WWF has several great tips to help your workplace become more sustainable, and most of them are easier than you think. Here are just a few:
Switching to 100% renewable energy will leave the planet much happier and healthier. To see how your organisation and the environment could benefit, try the Big Clean Switch today.
Check your suppliers
Research your suppliers’ ethics and environmental practices with Ethical Consumer Magazine’s ‘ethiscore’. Telling suppliers that ethical or environmental aspects matter to you sends a clear message that things need to change.
Reduce single use plastics and other single use items
Some plastic is essential, but single use plastic - and single use of all kinds, whatever they are made of - comes at a high environmental cost. To help reduce plastic waste, review how much single use plastic you use such as plastic cutlery, cups, Sellotape, bubble wrap, plastic packaging, envelope windows etc. and decide if you can eliminate these by making reusable, sustainable swaps. The same applies for all kinds of single use items, from paper plates to wooden cutlery.
For lower carbon options, choose video conferencing instead of travelling, take public transport over taxis and driving, and choose the train over a plane. If travelling for work is a necessary part of your business, look at setting your team a carbon budget as part of your organisation’s travel policy to ensure staff consider sustainability when agreeing how best to travel.
Tell your stakeholders what matters
More and more people are interested in what companies are actually doing to help the climate and nature emergency. Reducing your environmental footprint and telling others why you’re doing it not only helps the planet – it shows leadership and sets a standard for other organisations in your industry.
It’s hard to overstate the power of sustainable investment, and pension savings can be a powerful tool to drive change. Check out MakeYourMoneyMatter for more information about sustainable pensions.
For more great insights into how to make workplaces more sustainable, check out the WWF's 20 top tips and download their handy, free Sustainable Office Guide.
Be part of a network for change
Change needs action from everyone. SMEs - which make up about 90% businesses worldwide, according to the World Bank - impact overall emissions and are an essential voice in the fight to tackle the climate and nature crises. Being part of initiatives like SBti and SBTn connects you to a network of like-minded companies across the globe sharing knowledge and best practice.
Be the change you want to see. Publishing regular reports on your progress and the challenges you face when it comes to delivering on climate and nature goals, shows that your business is ready to be held accountable for its actions, builds trust and credibility, and helps create momentum for change in your industry.
When businesses come together, they have the power to influence real change. To truly become greener, businesses of all sizes and sectors need to lead the way in setting and achieving climate emergency targets, and work together to push governments to do more.
Let your government know what’s happening! Gather evidence, do as much research as you can and get other businesses involved to help drive a better future.
Whether it’s engaging with government consultations, making clear that sustainability is a business priority at political events or supporting campaigns that call to improve regulation in ways that support businesses to do the right thing for climate and nature, it can all have an impact in driving the change we so urgently need to see.
For more information on how to make a business more sustainable, check out WWF’s website and take a look at Our Planet, Our Business.
To learn more about all-things digital for your business, speak to one of our V-Hub Digital Advisers for 1-2-1 advice.
WWF works with businesses of all sizes in many different ways. The Vodafone WWF partnership supports Vodafone’s goals to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, help to eliminate e-waste, and encourage a more circular economy for mobile phones. If you feel inspired to see how your business can join forces with WWF, reach out to them at email@example.com.
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